Most people enjoy that mental “lift” on a Friday when they can slip on their comfortable clothes and come into the office. It has been a long week, and that little splash of individuality gives you the impetus to come in and give of your best for one last day.
Psychologically, you could view this from two angles. On one hand, it makes perfect sense – when we are relaxed we feel free to do our best work. On the other hand, do we lose some of our drive for perfection when we rock up in our jeans and t-shirt?
Well, I have a simple question for you….
Do you feel sportier when you are wearing your gym gear and trainers?
I would guess that you probably do. Does it stand to reason that you feel less business-like when you are wearing casual gear? For some people, maybe. Dr Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and fashion psychologist, would suggest that causal clothing could make someone feel less focused: “When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment. A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it’s ‘professional work attire’ or ‘relaxing weekend wear’, so when we put it on we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning.”
Business owners do not give their people explicit permission to slow down a little on Fridays, but maybe the implicit suggestions are being made? Much I suppose will depend on the demographic of the employee base, and you should always make an effort to mirror what your clients and customers do, but it does seem that clothing plays a work in demarcating the work / life boundary.
With these boundaries blurring like never before, maybe some of the issue lies between the need to recognise that we are still “at work”, even though we are wearing our casual clothes. Likewise, there may be a need to change out of our formal work clothes when we get home. Dr Jennifer Baumgartner, psychologist and author of “You are what you wear” would agree: “Changing your outfit after work is a concrete representation that you are not in work mode any more. The days I don’t change my clothes after work, I find myself more agitated and find it harder to put down work. Digitally we’re always plugged into work, so those boundaries have become more necessary than ever.”
In my view, there is definitely something in this.
On the flip side, I have even heard of companies holding “dress-up” Fridays. I’m not sure how their staff feel about the extra pressure that this entails, but I would feel more ready to take on the world in a sharp suit than I would in some scruffy jeans. I suppose that I am a little traditional – I will probably wear a tie in situations where others will be in open collars, but that is just my preference.
We should all be given the freedom to choose how we express ourselves, of course. The question remains whether it affects our performance?
For me, the jury is out. What do you think?