By Ana Carolina Aguiar
Working from home has become the new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many professions were forced to move from office spaces to personal spaces. This means conference calls, sales pitches, and even academic presentations are being held via Zoom. While virtual meetings mean your audience has a very limited view of you, many people are wondering what constitutes appropriate and what borderlines unprofessional when attending a Zoom meeting.
In normal office circumstances, appearances are made up of anything from the wrinkles on your shirt to the cleanliness of your shoes. However, the pandemic eliminated many of these aspects, with your “appearance” now referring to your head, shoulders, and your Zoom background setting.
According to The New York Times, “People who have managed to stay employed during the pandemic will confess to owning a Zoom Shirt: a top, typically kept on the back of the computer chair or a hanger nearby, that they pop on in the moments before their webcam lights up.”
However, this lack of professional attire is something Jordan Stolch, wardrobe consultant at MiKADO Personal Styling, ￼says decreases productivity.
“Your subconscious mind associates putting on formal clothing with going to work and is strongly correlated with confidence and productivity,” wrote Stolch.
This makes dressing in proper office attire crucial to the amount of work you get done.
Although getting in an office mindset may be difficult at home, Stolch encourages at-home employees to remember that clients and colleagues are aware that they are working from home. While this means there are lower expectations for office attire, Stolch advises employees to only dress down one level from what they would typically wear to work.
For example, Stolch says men can sport a collared shirt without the jacket and tie. This look maintains professionalism while accommodating for the at-home nature of employment.
Women, on the other hand, should wear blouses or sweaters as the perfect professional yet comfortable outfit. Specifically, men and women should avoid attire that may cut too low around their chest area to avoid potential distractions to the audience.
Another potential distraction to avoid is the background of your Zoom call. Molly Nevins, a writer for Jobscan, a professional resume-perfecting company, says that there are two approaches to setting up your Zoom background.
The first is to keep your background simple with a blank wall.
“It’s boring, but it’s neutral,” Nevins writes.
According to Nevins, however, the better option is to be seated in some sort of home office.
“This communicates that you’ve spent time and resources creating a space that allows you to work effectively,” she said.
These adaptations to the new reality that COVID-19 has created may be intimidating, but Nevins believes following these tips and embracing the new normal will provide tranquility in the hectic times of Zoom meetings.
"Stay calm [and] embrace the subtle awkward moments that come with video conferencing."