Pandemic Fashion Hits Home

Bedroom casual is the new business casual.

In late October, a survey by The Harris Poll on behalf of Fast Company explored how employees working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic had changed their work habits and maintained their productivity despite a remote professional life. In this series exploring the secrets of the most productive people, Americans working from home reveal that the pandemic has created new kind of work fashion.

Seventy percent of those working from home at least one day per week say that the way they dress when working from home is different from what they wear in the workplace. This is even higher for women at 76% and young adults ages 18-34 at 82%.

Income may also play a role in whether work from home employees are able to change what they wear when working at home. Two-thirds (66%) of those working from home at least one day per week with a household income under $75,000 say the way they dress when working from home is different that what they wear in the workplace. This is slightly higher among those with a household income greater than $75,000 at 71%.

Overall, two in five (42%) Americans working from home where casual, everyday clothes like jeans and t-shirts while working from home while another fifth (21%) normally wear business casual outfits. Among those who specifically wear outfits that are different than what they wear at home, the most popular outfit choices are casual or everyday clothes (41%), business formal (15%), business casual (14%), and athletic or workout clothes (13%).

While the largest plurality of men (42%) and women (41%) wear casual or everyday clothes when working from home, there is more variation in outfit choices among those remaining. Compared to women, men are much more likely to wear business casual (15% vs. 24%, respectively) or athletic/workout clothes (11% vs. 14%). Compared to men, women are more likely to favor business formal (14% vs. 9%, respectively), and they’re twice as likely to wear pajamas when working from home (11% vs. 5%).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, young employees also favor relaxed outfits when working from home, but compared to older generations, they show greater interest in work-from-home clothing that is both casual and multipurpose. About one in six (16%) employees ages 18-34 who work from home at least one day per week say their typical work outfit is athletic or workout clothes (compared to 13% of those over age 34).

Though often joked about, “mullet fashion,” or an office-appropriate top and an office-inappropriate bottom, has a very small following — just 7%.

Ultimately, such an overwhelming affinity for more comfortable clothing while working from home may reveals a more relaxed work culture during the pandemic, underlining the official blurring of lines between home and workplace. However, such a trend may also have implications after all pandemic restrictions are lifted: Americans may continue to prefer and even demand more relaxed work fashions when they return to the office.

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Fast Company during October 23-26, 2020, among 542 employed U.S. adults ages 18 and older as part of a broader survey of 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. For more information on methodology, please contact Dami Rosanwo.

Download full data tables here.