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The pyjama effect: what to wear to increase your productivity

woman in pyjamas - do they increase productivity?

Almost every time I get up in the morning and begin the long process of getting ready for work, I wonder if this is the day I can get away with wearing my pyjamas and be productive. I didn’t realise what you wear can increase your productivity.

Before almost everyone began working from home, thanks to Covid, I would have never considered the thought of working in my pyjamas. My French grandmother is probably somewhere shaking her head at me for just thinking about wearing pjs instead of getting dressed

The closest I have ever been to that was when I worked at a hospital where I wore scrubs. Even then, I was in the professional mindset, and I never felt unproductive. However, it never fails when I decide to wear my pyjamas on the weekends, I end up procrastinating and neglecting all my chores or errands.

man wearing pyjamas working from home

What the science says

Based on an experiment conducted by Adam Hajo and Adam D. Galinsky in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, they coined the term “enclothed cognition” to describe how clothing can have a significant influence on a person’s psychological process.

They discovered that we unconsciously have stereotypical views of what kind of activity is to occur with particular items of clothing. (For instance, wearing pyjamas we associate with sleeping.)

Their research also revealed that attention spans increased when subjects sported a lab coat associated with doctors or scientists. However, when the subjects were told the lab coats they wore were associated with a painter, their attention spans did not increase.

The Pyjama Effect

Now that our working lives have changed due to Covid-19 and many of us are working from home, I am sure many are like me and struggle with getting “dressed up” just for a few zoom meetings.

Even putting on make-up feels like a waste of time.

However, I have noticed in what I like to call “the pyjama effect” is that when I don’t take the time to change into something I would normally wear for work, I am not “ready” to perform work-type tasks. My productivity is shot for the whole day, and I end up with more work for the next day.

Much like the results of the research conducted by Hajo and Galinsky, I have discovered that when I wear pyjamas, I am in the mindset of either getting into bed or snuggling on the couch to relax.

This type of thinking happens because of two factors: the symbolic meaning of the clothing and the physical experience we get when we wear the clothing.

So will simply changing out of those clothing will increase your attitude towards work?

woman at work wearing yoga pants

And what about loungewear?

Does this same rule apply to yoga pants or loungewear? Do I instantly want to do yoga or go to the gym?

According to Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D in her article How Does Wearing Yoga Pants Affect Women’s Success at Work?, she writes in Pyschology Today that one woman felt as though she was “dancing through her duties.”

Certainly you might feel more comfortable in leggings or loungewear but in the work environment, it seems the gender stereotypes are still at play.

Whitbourne cites a study that found when women wore yoga pants to work, colleagues saw them as less professional than their male counterparts or those who did not wear yoga pants. They were also regarded as less competent than their co-workers, especially in STEM careers.

So what do you wear?

Working from home, we might be able to get away with yoga pants, but the research seems to suggest that we shouldn’t wear them to work if we want to be taken seriously. Perhaps it is best that they aren’t visible on the zoom call. It also advises not to wear pyjamas when working, especially if you need to be productive or have a more professional mindset.

What clothes do you associate with professionalism? What clothes do you associate with success?

The balance between practical comfort and an outfit that makes you feel ready for work is key. It might be worth experimenting with different styles and levels of formality to see what impact it has on your productivity.

According to research, we are psychologically selling ourselves short and allowing for failure if we don’t get out of our pyjamas.

Which means grandmother is right after all.  

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Christine Q
Christine Q

Christina is a writer for blogs, businesses and solopreneurs. She is based in France with clients around the world.

You can see more about her writing and the work she does here: www.quillsandtypewriters.com

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