When Megan Cytron is on deadline at Alpha 60 Design Shop, her Washington, D.C., Web studio, she'll drag on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and head directly to her third floor home office.
When she's not under the gun, she'll down a bowl of cereal and take a shower before donning the same work attire.
"I think I can actually do my job no matter what I'm wearing or what my routine is," says Cytron, who has worked from home since 1995.
Dressed for success or comfort as king? The home office community is torn between whether clothes really matter in how a person performs.
Better attire can help some people stay focused and perform their jobs better, says John Molloy, a corporate image and communications consultant and author of Dress for Success and New Women's Dress for Success (both from WarnerBooks).
In a recent survey of 40 at-home workers, Molloy found that better attire kept these workers focused and productive. As part of his research, Molloy would call the workers at random times each week and have them shoot pictures of themselves with a Polaroid camera. He found women typically dressed more neatly than men. He also learned that the productivity of highly motivated workers was unaffected by their attire or appearance, he says.
"Dress has less of an impact on the entrepreneur [as opposed to the teleworker]. But to a degree, dress code matters to everyone [who works from home]," says Molloy, who showers daily before pulling on a pair of khakis, a button-down shirt and a pair of Topsiders. "The most effective people working from home tended to be well put-together if not formal."
Molloy recommends that entrepreneurs create minimum dress standards, whether it's nice shorts or jeans and a pull-over shirt, or khakis and an Oxford shirt. If you're spending the day making telephone sales calls, dress more nicely. Believe it or not, he says, your voice reflects your attire.
"The way people dress affects the way they carry themselves, even in their language," Molloy contends. "With a shirt and tie, people tend to be more formal. When people are dressed very casually, they tend to be lackadaisical."
While Cytron doesn't believe her productivity is a byproduct of her attire, she does occasionally dress up. When she has a client meeting off-site, she'll "do the whole Washington, DC, black-and-gray uniform thing," she says. When it's cold around the house, she might don socks and shoes.
It's her husband, Christian Perez, who frequently sports more "formal" attire. Cytron jokes, "He's always fully clothed."
Journalist and author Jeff Zbar has worked from home since the 1980s. He writes about home business, teleworking, marketing, communications and other SOHO issues.