Comfort is key

Behavioural psychologist, Professor Carolyn Mair, unpicks the learnings of our research report on the working wardrobe’s flexible future

The pandemic has affected how we think, feel and act. We have missed seeing loved ones, socialising with workmates and friends, and being able to travel. We have become used to working and exercising from home, and wearing the same type of clothing for both.

Although we may be tiring of endless Zoom calls within our own four walls, many of us have embraced the opportunity to dress as we wish when working from home. These elements demonstrate how both the environment and what we wear influence our wellbeing and can make the difference between feeling OK and feeling great.

Clothing is our second skin: the closest thing to our bodies. When it’s comfortable and comforting, the touch of clothing can lift our mood and even our self-confidence. But the psychological influence of clothing goes beyond this. The wonderful thing about fashion is that it gives us the opportunity to be whoever we want to be depending on how we dress. How we dress expresses our identity and when we feel good about how we look, we are more self-assured in our interactions, in turn leading to a spiral of positivity that further boosts our confidence. The pandemic has meant limited socialising and this has had a knock-on effect on what we wear, but as the restrictions are being lifted, the desire to re-engage with fashion and get back to the office is an exciting prospect.

Findings from a study commissioned by The Office Group show that after a year of working from home, UK office workers are rethinking their working wardrobe post-pandemic. Comfort remains the top priority for office dress choices after lockdown, but the perception of what we wear to work, as well as the sense of style, has changed for many. The majority of our study respondents have been dressing informally while working from home, and almost half of these say that they will try to continue to do so when they return to the office. As expected, many respondents predict that ‘smart casual’, rather than ‘formal’ is likely to be the office dress code of choice post-pandemic.

While some respondents plan to refresh their entire wardrobe, others will buy a few items to maintain the comfort they have become used to, help them celebrate the end of working from home, look fresh – and adapt their wardrobe to reflect the new flexibility of mixed home and office working. In any case, the average sum they will spend on new clothing will be almost £200, with almost a quarter (22%) making clothes shopping their biggest post-pandemic expenditure. Many office workers reported feeling happier, more confident, productive and creative in their role when they dress to suit their own style and around one in five (19%) think that their employer will have a more flexible approach to clothing when they return to the office.

In line with the desire for a more relaxed style of clothing, many respondents want to be able to work more collaboratively, citing flexible work spaces with a ‘home from home’ feel as being preferable to a traditional office. As both office style and our workplaces become less rigid, workers and businesses are likely to benefit from transitioning into flexible work spaces like TOG’s Liberty House, which offers a beautiful environment that’s designed to enhance productivity, collaboration and wellbeing. Crafted to be a creative space for creative thinkers, Liberty House shows that, like fashion, our working environment really does matter.

Click here to download Carolyn’s report in full