The ongoing news about the Coronavirus (COVID19) may make you want to go back to bed, but now is not the time to stay in your pajamas.
Let me say right away, of course, that I in no way want to make light of a very serious issue. But among the many other consequences of this epidemic — cancelled events, travel restrictions and quarantines — the rise of remote work or work from home (WFM) policies has been one of the most-talked about in professional circles.
As CNN and others have reported, Google is among the major firms who have asked employees to stay away from the office. For some this might be seen as a perk, even though outlets like the New York Times have wondered if working from home is overrated.
For me, life doesn’t change very much because I work for myself, which means working from home is always an option. It’s not an option I’ve tended to take, in part because I love the city and have the privilege of hanging out in various coworking spaces downtown.
I also think, at least in the early years, I avoided working from home because I worried I might end up becoming slovenly — like one of those startup CEOs who could easily get mistaken for a bike courier.
The difference between WFH then and now is that it’s no longer merely an escape. The reason some of my former coworkers craved it was the idea they wouldn’t be disturbed, that they could more done and (most of all) wouldn’t have to be in constant contact with their manager.
Today, technology allows us to work from home in such a way that we’re much closer to the office. There are conference calls, video hangouts, webinars to attend (and occasionally present) and tools like Slack with messages going back and forth constantly.
I suspect videoconferencing in particular will become more the norm, which means a constant rotation of sweatshirts may not be an option, particularly if you’re having a video call with a client.
Even if that’s not the case, dressing even semi-professional can help get you in the right headspace for working, kind of like getting into shorts and sneakers is a sort of onramp to working out.
Fashion designers have never traditionally created clothes with the idea that they’ll primarily be seen through a screen, but there’s still lots you can choose to strike a balance between casual and sophisticated.
The Officer Collar Polo Shirt
Polo shirts are already a default choice for guys in the office, but this one takes things up a notch because it offers something akin to a mandarin jacket, while the short sleeves ensures it’s not too ornate. I love these because they have that subtle but noticeable piping of colour. (The Kooples, $173) Image: The Kooples
The Off-White Overshirt
You have to feel the weight of this in person to appreciate it, but it’s heavier than a regular dress shirt without feeling like you’re wearing a denim jacket. The colour makes it less formal than something you might normally wear with a suit but is elevated enough that you’ll be taken seriously, even if you’re being seen through a screen as small as a smartphone’s. (Ami, $387). Image: Farfetch
The Rugby Jersey
Rugby shirts straddle a nice line between the comfort of a polo shirt and a traditional dress shirt or sweater. This one might seem too colourful for some guys, but the contrast of the white colour and button line bring it back towards the realm of business attire — at least in a WFH context. (JW Anderson, $233). Image: HBX
The Colorblock Shirt Jacket
Wear it open when you’re running across the street for coffee, or when you meet up with a fellow WFH-er who’s beginning to get cabin fever. Button it back up when it’s time to face the webcam, or even if you’re talking business on the phone. This is a piece of clothing that shows you’re still making an effort. (Saks, $229.60). Image: Saks
Pants And Shoes
I haven’t bothered curating much that you’ll wear below the waist because I know better. The go-to will be jeans on many days, chinos or khakis on warmer days and sweatpants on bad days.
If you want to mix it up — even if no one sees your legs — I’d suggest suit separates or the kinds of affordable or dressier pants you can get at Zara, or even H&M.
As for shoes, think beyond sneakers or bare feet. You can be just as comfortable, but feel a bit more work-ready, with loafers. Whether this virus lasts and WFH continues or not, I think Spring 2020 is going to be all about slip-on shoes. For high end, consider a driving moccasin from Tod’s. For something more affordable, I really like the bold colour and sleekness of Stacey Adams.
It’s hard to say if the Coronavirus will make working from home the norm for many workers, but even if this is all temporary, there are still ways to make your wardrobe work.