There’s a radio commercial that’s been bugging me recently. It comes from AT&T and is meant to sell its home internet service, promising lightning speeds and all that. Specifically, it’s targeted at the work-from-home individual, telling them that they’ll be able to deliver all their projects and engage in any necessary video conference calls without having to be in a traditional office environment.
That AT&T would try and appeal to this group isn’t surprising. The remote workforce is expected to grow over the next several years. Late last year ~43% of workers said they either worked outside the office or had the flexibility to do so when necessary. That number is likely to grow as downtown office rents increase and companies seek to make that kind of flexibility more of a standard feature for employees. Also contributing to that is the rise of freelancer and contractor usage by companies who don’t want to bring people on full-time but still want to tap into specialized skills regardless of location.
The problem is with the content of the ad. The work-from-home individual who, in the commercial, is touting the benefits of AT&T’s offering mentions how he’s able to take conference calls in his boxers, finish presentations in his pajamas and so on. It’s all very cliched, representative of just the kind of activity that has stifled acceptance of remote working for years even as technology made it easier and more efficient.
It also flies in the face of just about every bit of “how to work from home successfully” advice you can find. This list is representative of that advice and item #1 there is “Get Dressed.” Having worked from home for a number of years, I speak from experience when I say that even putting on a t-shirt and sweatpants makes a difference in how you approach the day. You don’t *need* to put on the same shirt and khakis you would if you were heading into the office, just clearing the “socially acceptable were anyone in the outside world to see me” bar is good. It changes your psychology. If you want to go more formal, great, do what works for you. Just do it.
The ad I’m taking issue with here may think it’s being clever in how it’s speaking to the remote workforce, but it’s not. The idea of taking important meetings in your boxers is outdated. If your boss or manager thinks that’s what you’re doing it’s more likely to cause them to either require you to come back into the office to maintain a modicum of decorum or cut you loose because you’re obviously not taking the job seriously.
By reinforcing the notion that WFH is a Studio 54-esque free-for-all, AT&T may be doing more damage to the kind of person it’s trying to sell its services too than helping them. The reason people want this kind of flexibility isn’t that standard work attire is too constrictive, it’s because they have lives that need to be dealt with around the jobs they hold. Let’s not hamper them or make their case any more difficult to make than it already might be.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.