Dressing for an Increasingly Virtual Workplace

Dressing for an Increasingly Virtual Workplace

Dressing for an Increasingly Virtual Workplace


As the pandemic rages on, lockdowns and remote work are quickly becoming a way of life for many in the workforce. This “new norm” means a shift from time in the office to a virtual workplace where Zoom and video chat are the order of the day. Business casual attire is also changing as people straddle the relaxed comfort of home styles and the professional wear of the corporate world.

Clothing makes the man

The Social, Psychological and Personality Department at Columbia conducted an experiment with volunteers from the student body. Students assessed the clothing that they were currently wearing relative to that of their peers.

Those students who assessed their appearance as “more formal” showed a higher level of abstract thinking and therefore a greater sense of power.

In the business world, the same concept holds true. For those workers who normally dress well to go into the office, dressing well for the weekly Zoom meeting shows clients and coworkers that, even though the venue has changed, the mindset has not. A well-dressed coworker instills a sense of professionalism and normalcy in a virtual workplace.

This feeling carries over into productivity as well. Dressed for work externally dresses one’s mind internally for work. While suits are not required, a nice dress shirt and work pants prepare a man for his workday mentally and physically.

Half is not better than none

When the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out and those employees who were fortunate enough to be able to work from home were permitted to do so, many workers felt lost. Without the routine of a workweek, there was no reason to get dressed and no motivation to differentiate work time from time off.

As it became clear that a virtual workplace would become the “new norm,” workers adjusted. Some workers realized that they needed to normalize life and dress for work as though they were entering the office.

Other workers decided to compromise – dress for work on top and stay extremely casual on bottom. The new business casual suddenly became a quality tee shirt or oxford shirt, and perhaps a sports coat without a tie. That's fine. It works.

But many people also opted for no pants. That doesn't work. Pants are not optional.

Supervisors and co-workers understand that everyone is juggling many roles at the moment. With many schools and childcare centers closed, children are trying to learn from home with parents and caregivers as teachers. Some glitches are expected under the circumstances.

At no time, though, is it ever appropriate to appear on screen half-dressed.

Know the “on camera” rules

As with in-office dressing, supervisors and co-workers expect individual idiosyncrasies. Some men prefer flamboyant socks as a contrast to traditional suits. Others enjoy wearing a bow tie rather than the traditional tie.

Dressing for a virtual workplace has its own set of rules, though, especially if the majority of the day is consumed with video conferences:

  • Bold colors, especially jewel tones, show up well on screen and project confidence.
  • Be professional, but not over the top. A full business suit is not required.
  • Patterns can be distracting. Also, colors that too closely match the background convey the image of a talking head.
  • Don’t forget personal grooming. Even with many barbershops closed, look as neat and professional as possible.
  • Choose the setting wisely. No one wants to see the inside of a bathroom, even if that is the only place in the house that is safe from the kids.

The best advice is the simplest advice – treat the virtual workplace as a regular workplace. Dress for success. For additional tips on how to dress for an increasingly virtual office, visit Ike Behar. Since the 1950s, Ike Behar has been a premier tailor and expert on dressing for every occasion.

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Dressing for an increasingly virtual workplace

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Dressing for a virtual workplace has its own set of rules, especially if the majority of the day is consumed with video conferences.

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