Work from home dress code: what do you wear in a remote job?

Suits may be out but, for many, casual dressing gone too far. As more of us embrace remote working, we explore what the new work wardrobe looks like.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

As you read this, there’s a one in three chance you are currently wearing pyjamas. Employees across the UK have embraced elastic waistbands this year, as flexible working arrangements become normalised across the office-based world.

In fact, research from Indeed has shown that 33% of Brits now work in their sleeping gear (and that’s just those who will admit to it). On average, we now don pyjamas in the day job 46 times a year, with 8.3% of workers even wearing their nightwear every working day. 

This new attire is a reflection of the changing definition if what constitutes ‘professionalism’ in the workplace. Forget creaseless trousers, employees now want to be judged on performance, not their appearance.

Managers are less taken with the trend, however. Indeed finds that bosses have been left fuming at the surge in hoodies and messy hair, causing some to question what the new dress code should be for the remote worker.

What is the new home office dress code?

According to the Indeed data, wearing a dressing gown could soon lead to a dressing down for workers. Employers would most like to ban pyjamas in online meetings, labelling these as the most inappropriate uniform. This was followed by unwashed or messy hair.  

Joggers are also out. 44% of employers say tracksuit bottoms or leggings are inappropriate workwear, yet 56% of staff are donning them while working.

Previously, these tog transgressions might have been kept to Zoom meetings. But the return to the office debate has seen the problem leak over from the remote to the real world.

Two in five employers responding to the Indeed survey said that trainers – normally invisible on the webcam – are inappropriate attire. However, the same study also found that almost two-thirds of staff now wear them both at home and in the office.

Modesty is another issue. Research by Instantprint recently uncovered that 30% of employers would discipline workers who wore short skirts, dresses, playsuits, or shorts. Meanwhile, 29% said they think vests and crop tops are inappropriate for work.

Impact on productivity

Comfort over smartwear might be in. But while the occasional PJ day is fine, workers probably shouldn’t make them their default uniform.

That business owners aren’t a fan of messy or unwashed hair amongst staff can be seen as fair criticism, given the impact that a fresh start to the day can have on employee mental health and wellbeing.

Feeling good at work is important for getting into a focused mindset. Sometimes even the simple act of getting dressed can help to build a healthy work from home routine that can do wonders for a person’s productivity.

The fitness app, MyFitnessPal recently carried out a survey of 2,000 hybrid workers. It found that 60% of hybrid workers admit to being unhealthier while working at home.

On average, Brits consume nearly 800 extra calories when hybrid or remote working and take 3,500 fewer steps.

Bosses loosen up on jeans and piercings

Nearly half the employers that Indeed surveyed reported that since the pandemic, workers have taken casual work dress too far. 29% even revealed they have enforced a strict dress code as a result.

Despite the findings, UK employers are still willing to be flexible. Based on the Indeed research, the majority (75%) of employers say dressing more casually at work has become more common throughout their career.

Jeans and a jumper could soon be considered the new ‘formal’ outfit for at-home working, as bosses strike a balance between employee comfort and client expectations. Specific sartorial choices that were previously frowned upon and are now permitted at work include:

  • Foundation free: 60% of employees ditch makeup when working from home
  • Jeans over joggers: 52% of employers now think denims are fine to wear to work
  • Piercings allowed: 48% of employers say they don’t mind the metal

Gen Z dress for success while boomers dress down

Since the pandemic, employers report that employees’ work attire has become more formal during face-to-face meetings with clients and stakeholders, but less formal with colleagues.

Surprisingly, Gen Z workers (classed as those aged 18 to 26) appear the keenest to impress. Gen Zers, known for their tech-savvy nature and entrepreneurial spirit, are redefining office culture with a newfound focus on comfort and individuality.

But the Gen Z dress code looks very different to the professional environment. Indeed finds that 42% of this age group would dress in ‘smart’ business attire such as suits in front of clients, versus 15% of those aged over 35.

Similarly, one in five Gen Z workers say they dress more formally when meeting stakeholders. This figure steadily declines as the age of workers rises, reaching just 10% for those aged over 55.

Managers mustn’t throw away the suit and tie too quickly. Young people clearly still recognise the value of projecting a more polished and professional image – despite taking a more cavalier approach to workwear at home.

By taking steps to align with traditional notions of business attire, and conform to the nuances of work dynamics, Gen Z are demonstrating their willingness to compromise. This ability to balance comfort and professionalism is a valuable asset in the modern workplace.

Being yourself stays firmly in-style

Bosses might be justified in asking workers to upgrade from their nightgowns. But it is important to allow staff some say in what to wear, in order to empower them to be their authentic selves at work.

Doing so provides a boost to individual self-confidence and fosters an inclusive organisational culture – which is likely why 86% of employers in the Indeed survey agreed it is important for staff to express their identity through their clothing.

When employees feel comfortable in themselves, they are more likely to feel engaged and motivated to contribute their best to the organisation.

Moreover, allowing workers to express their individuality through their clothing choices can attract and retain talent. Dress codes can be a deal breaker, with a recent US study finding that some job hunters have turned down job offers due to a company’s fashion requirements.

Danny Stacy, UK Head of Talent Intelligence at Indeed, said: “Workplace norms have changed since the pandemic, affecting how people present themselves. It’s encouraging to see the majority of employers now recognising the importance of staff self-expression.

“Workers feeling empowered to dress with autonomy not only encourages a greater sense of belonging, and helps to attract and retain diverse talent, it also helps them do their best work.”

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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