Common sense and lived experience tell us that what we wear affects our mindset. Whether it’s a chef donning his apron or a dentist putting on her white coat, work attire helps us to get into role. Supporting this idea is a psychological effect known as ‘enclothed cognition’. In a seminal study published nearly a decade ago, researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois, US, showed that volunteers performed better on attention-related tasks when they put on a doctor’s lab coat.
Other findings hint at the same principle – in 2014, for instance, US researchers found that volunteers negotiated more effectively (and had higher testosterone levels) when they wore a black suit, compared with others who wore a tracksuit.
So even though your colleagues might not be able to see you in your pyjamas, you could indeed be losing out on the psychological benefit of dressing for work. After all, pyjamas tend to be associated with sleep and inertia!
As well as considering what you wear, other tips for increasing productivity when working from home include setting aside specific hours for work (and letting close friends and family know that you’ll be unavailable) and, if you can, carving out a specific space for doing your work: somewhere you can’t reach the TV remote or see the dishes piling up.
Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.