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How to Maintain a Professional Appearance While Working From Home

Wearing pajamas is not the answer to staying productive.

By Lauren A. RothmanStylist and fashion expert
Getty Images

The way we dress impacts our performance. There is so much in this world we cannot control and one daily routine we can practice at home is getting dressed with intention. My best advice: don’t just dress from the hip up for your next video conference call.

When I style clients we talk about strategies that make you feel empowered and confident, like you own the room. As our new normal starts to shift and you find yourself working from home more often, define the look of your most productive self as you move from your home office set up to your exercise and beauty routines.

During a time when you can feel easily overwhelmed, it is more important than ever to practice self-care. It can be uplifting to be fully awake and engaged in a home setting. Self-care requires practice and many of us now have plenty of newly unplanned time to perfect this art form.

Here are my top self-care style tips to help you stay productive and professional:

Make sure your hair is tempered.

This sounds so simple yet many people undervalue the importance of hairstyles at home. If you are spending any time teleconferencing, keep in mind that a polished appearance remains valuable.

Frizzy hair is a common distraction on video but can be very easy to tame with hairspray or product. Spray your comb or your hands with product and run it through your locks. If you are so inclined, explore the many available online tutorials. You can also sleep with your hair in a bun or a braid for a low key yet fun look — you don’t need a professional blowout to look successful.

Define your work-from-home routine.

Don’t underestimate the power of looking well-rested. This is the time to go through any free samples of skincare products you have collected over time. Focus on maintaining healthy looking, glowing skin instead of perfecting a Saturday night smokey eye (unless that’s your thing).

Also, moisturize. It is still cold in parts of the country and we’re all pumping the hand sanitizer — many of my clients report dry skin as one of their biggest beauty challenges. Try a face mask or pack of nail stickers.

Continue to wear your contacts or find some blue light eyeglasses that could help you feel more comfortable and refreshed. Daily makeup routines are also evolving, but some people, myself included, find that makeup helps us wake-up. If stress and anxiety are keeping you up at night, fake it on your next video work call and wear concealer and lipstick. It is easy to look washed out on video calls and a little makeup goes a long way. Try focusing on creating an even skin tone, highlighting your eyes to help keep your audience engaged and wearing a lip color that complements your coloring.

Practicing self-care can be like caffeine and is a terrific way to supercharge your day.

Shop your closet.

Working from home could give you an opportunity to wear pieces in your closet that still have tags. Break in the new shoes you pre-ordered for spring. Stretch out your white jeans from last summer while you sit at your desk. Purge, edit and store winter pieces you will no longer wear this season.

Organize your closet, the hallway coat closet, your toiletries, and your office. If you usually go barefoot at home (as many of us do) identify your work-from-home shoes. Find your perfect heel height that helps you feel on duty and ready to face what comes your way. Getting dressed helps us feel more accountable and wearing shoes can help us remember we are meant to be doing something productive. Don’t dress uncomfortably, but also possibly don’t plan on wearing your sports bra every day for a month either.

Build a capsule wardrobe.

Designate a section in your closet for grab and go wardrobe essentials that will appear professional over video conference. While you may be able to work from home in your pajamas, you definitely don’t want to wear them on Zoom calls with your boss. It may seem obvious, but wear undergarments and shop your closet for solid colored tops and appropriate pants. I’ve had too many clients unintentionally stand up during a video call when a child, spouse or roommate walks into a designated work space without warning.

Channel your personal brand as you curate your video conference capsule wardrobe and work from home outfits. You may be able to pop onto social media broadcasting from your bed wearing workout gear, but avoid doing this on a business video chat. Avoid busy patterns or shirts with writing that will be distracting. You can show off a hint of personal style with interesting collars, colors, earrings, and shorter necklaces.

If you’re now working-from-home for the first time, it’s good idea to use this newfound time at home to discover and update routines. Some are hunkering down to cocoon, others are balancing working from home while parenting and many of our past patterns are shifting. Wearing your pajamas endlessly is not the answer. This is not a staycation or a singular sick day — this is our foreseeable new normal. It’s a luxury to work from home while so many essential workers continue to commute and risk their health. Find your new favorite outfit that is both comfortable and professional and get yourself dressed.

Published on: Mar 23, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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7 ‘Revival’ Trends You Can Actually Wear to the Office Right Now

Shop your closet for these 90’s inspired looks that you never pitched last decade

By Lauren A. RothmanStylist and fashion expert
Getty Images

What’s old is new again and the top trends for this century’s roaring 20’s are very 90’s inspired. Oversized blazers, mom jeans, bodysuits, combat boots, crop tops, crochet, and padded headbands are everywhere. However, just because dress codes are slacking across the country, do yourself a favor and don’t walk into a boardroom looking sloppy, unpolished or unaware of your audience.

Spring is on the horizon and my clients want to know what to wear this time of year. Winter is in full effect yet stores are blooming with next season’s looks. Here’s a rundown of 7 revival trends that are stylish and safe for work.

1. Fleece

Once a material reserved for the outdoors and Silicon Valley techies, fleece has gotten a makeover. From tailored pieces to chic sweater styles, this cozy material can take you from your couch to the office. Try a trendy zip-up or blazer style in a bright color or muted animal print paired with dark denim and booties on your next casual Friday instead of the traditional fleece vest.

2. Polka Dots

This classic pattern is perfect for the office. A welcome change from floral patterns we typically see at this time of year, polka dots are spring’s version of houndstooth. It is one of the rare flattering patterns that works universally on many body types. Try it as a wrap dress or silky blouse while guys can add a pop of pattern on their socks or pocket square. You will start to see it in many stores this spring but you may also be able to shop your own closet.

3. Brights

Color is everywhere. Spring often blooms an inner release from the boredom of everyday neutrals. Brights are popping up and there is a color in style for everyone. Whether you add a shoe in Pantone’s shade of “classic blue” to your wardrobe or indulge in reds, pinks, and purples you are sure to make your audience smile in these happy tones. For an extra bold look, dip into the neon highlighter reel and choose one piece to wear to work.

4. Micro Bags

If you’re not using your phone to pay for everything and actually want to carry lip gloss, keys, or on-the-go essentials next time you run out for a coffee break, invest in this trendy bag. Its predecessor, the wristlet, still lives on but these micro bags are often miniature versions of your favorite handbag styles. They are a versatile, easy travel accessory that is sure to bring endless compliments.

5. Matching Separates

One of my personal favorites, these outfits are the perfect hybrid between business attire and business casual. Matching separates create a polished look and there is no need to add a jacket. Look for coordinating basics in neutral tones to lengthen your shape or stand out in a column of color. Dressy but not stuffy, this trend is easy to wear and will help you exude executive presence without looking like you’re trying too hard.

6. Leather

This fall trend has major staying power. In any of its iterations, ranging from couture vegan leather to shiny fabric that is leather inspired, this material is popping up head to toe. Men will find leather piping along blazers or sweaters while women will see any number of pieces competing for attention. Shop this trend carefully and avoid pleather that looks too shiny or squeaks.

7. Belts

High waisted pants are a revival trend many women would like to see stay in style. The art of tucking in a shirt is a lesson I teach many clients. The most classic and professional is the full tuck, while the half and front tuck add a little street style to your look. All of these styling tricks showcase your waist and beg for a belt. If you find yourself perfecting the art of tucking, invest in a bold style with a statement buckle.

Power dressing is always in style. Sticking with these versatile trends will help you transition your work wardrobe from a more conservative winter to a colorful, comfortable, and office appropriate spring.

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3 Reasons You Should Wear Pantone’s ‘Classic Blue’ to the Office in 2020

Channel your inner royal and own the room.

By Lauren A. RothmanStylist and fashion expert
Getty Images

Color plays an enormous role in our professional wardrobes. Some prefer to stock up on neutrals while others are always on the hunt for a pop of color to liven up their daily uniform. We wishfully search for just the right shade to match an eye color, to coordinate a lone separate hanging in the closet, or just to dazzle on a big day.

But we can sometimes be intimated by color and choose to never wear it for fear of choosing the wrong one. People can also overdo color and wear so much of it, one can’t help but say “great color” when they see you– even if they don’t mean it.

The power of color is impactful whether we organize our closets using it as a guiding principle or simply start our shopping sprees on the hunt for it.

Pantone knows the power of color, and it announces a new color every year to be its color of the year. This year the color they believe will make a global impact from fashion and design to consumer mindsets is “classic blue.”

This elegant color is easy to wear, unlike past chosen colors that feel too trendy, bold, or intimidating (like perky purple or vivid coral). Pantone color 19-4052 is finally a friendly, wearable, accessible color.

Blue is also one of the rare universal colors that is flattering on almost everyone. It’s softer than black but not as bold as red. It’s a heavyweight in the corporate world because of its versatility. Men wear some version of blue, often navy, almost every day to work. Women ask me about matching blue and black every season out of fear of making a fashion faux pas and wondering if black shoes can be worn with navy. (The answer is yes, by the way. Opt for black suede or patent leather for high style.)

Classic blue is similar to cobalt and makes a strong visual impact. Here are the top reasons you should be wearing this Pantone color in 2020.

Dress with Authority

Classic blue is the the color of leadership. You will frequently see world leaders, both female and male, wearing a suit in this shade of blue. It’s an engaging color that works well when my clients wear it on stage, on TV, on the campaign trail, in headshots, or leading a meeting. If sporting this color head-to-toe like a royal feels too bold, pop it in a shoe or a tie to reflect your confidence and welcome success with a nod to modern aesthetics.

Keep Your Audience Engaged

Help your audience stay tuned into your message with a powerful presence. As I often share with clients who work in media, viewers are drawn in by your personal packaging even before they’ve grasped your substance. Wearing classic blue is a subtle tool that helps put people at ease and isn’t aggressive enough to alienate those around you.

If only to show off your playful nature, consider a handbag, briefcase or luggage in this this cheerful hue. It is s a crowd pleaser and an effective color to wear to help differentiate yourself from the competition.

Inspire Change

Everyone wants to be valued at the office and shades of blue often convey a sense of trust. Harness the power of your presence to help achieve this. Be a beacon of hope during these long winter months at the office. Turn heads as you walk down the street in a brightly colored bold coat or dress. Change is inevitably on the horizon, and while fads will inevitably fizzle, classic blue will continue to be a reliable one-size-fits-all trend.

Color impacts our emotions and this one offers refuge from the daily grind of wearing dark neutrals or monochromatic black to the office. Stores will be stocking this shade of blue and soon it will available at every turn. Next time you get dressed, consider wearing this power color and be prepared to own the room.

Published on: Feb 6, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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If You Practice This 1 Rare Habit Now, You’re a Much Better Leader Than You Think

It may be common sense, but not common practice

By Marcel SchwantesFounder and Chief Human Officer, Leadership From the Core
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Employee engagement is a top contributing factor to high-performance work cultures and productive employees. And yet people often confuse “engagement” with “satisfaction.”

The key difference between the two, it turns out, has little to do with free beer, pet-friendly policies, or on-site acupuncture leading to satisfaction.

It has everything to do with the work itself.

That said, engagement is also incredibly difficult to keep a pulse on. That’s why the very best leaders don’t just lead; they do something still considered rare by any corporate measure. They listen to their employees.

The critical importance of continuous listening

As you may have heard, recent news reports are filled with accounts of employee protests and walkouts, and even a government mandate to give Google employees the right to speak out on their beliefs — demonstrating how important employee feedback is.

According to a survey of more than 1,000 workers by employee engagement company Achievers, just 20.8% consider themselves “very engaged.” That same survey suggested that a lack of listening was partially to blame. While 40% of workers ranked their manager and employer “okay” at soliciting feedback, a full 16.3% ranked them as “horrible.”

Many experts agree continuous listening is one of the best ways to improve the employee experience. Dr. Natalie Baumgartner, chief workforce scientist at Achievers, says, “Engagement is complex, but that doesn’t mean we need to make it complicated. Empowering leaders to talk with employees to understand more about what’s working and what’s not is the best place to start.”

Most companies, purposefully or by happenstance, practice some sort of listening. The majority, though, still fall into the trap of just hoping these sorts of conversations occur in manager one-on-one meetings or relying on yearly surveys.

Baumgartner warns, “Life doesn’t change once a year. Employee engagement is exceptionally fluid and dynamic, changing throughout the course of a single day. If a channel is not in place for continuous listening, employees simply don’t have a way to voice concerns or feedback as life happens, resulting in employers missing opportunities to address problems before they become systemic issues.”

Business leaders should systemize a method for gathering ongoing feedback, whether it’s using a surveying tool with an ongoing set of questions, making feedback a formalized part of meetings, or using a technology solution. 

What to listen for

Managers should try to understand how employees feel about their work and the organization to understand more about their overall engagement–and also why they feel that way.

Asking how someone is feeling is such a simple, human act, but too infrequently done. Just look at Meghan Markle’s reaction when asked by a reporter how she was doing as a new mom.

The response each employee provides will differ. How they feel could range from excited to burned out to uncertain. Why they feel that way could be due to a change in leadership, a new project, or something as simple as a tech issue preventing them from working efficiently.

As Baumgartner noted, employees’ engagement will constantly be in flux, making the act of asking ever more important.

Acting on feedback

Gathering feedback isn’t enough, and can even be detrimental if the feedback isn’t addressed. The Achievers survey found when it came to actually acting on feedback, workers ranked managers and employers even more negatively. A sizable amount (42.3%) said their managers and employers were “okay–they make a few changes based on it,” but over one in five (21.4%) rated them as “horrible–they never do anything with feedback.”

The purpose of collecting feedback is to achieve continual improvement. The changes needn’t be monumental. Sometimes simply acknowledging feedback can have a positive impact.

“One of the most impactful mechanisms a manager can have on their team is to both ask for and acknowledge feedback regarding the experiences of their employees. Leaders do not have to have all the answers. In most cases, including employees in identifying a solution results in an even more effective outcome,” continued Baumgartner.

As the New Year looms–a time when job-hopping spikes–making sure employees feel valued is a prerequisite of great managers. Showing empathy around their experience–by seeking feedback–is one of the critical steps to achieving that.

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Don’t make these embarrassing style mistakes at your company’s holiday party.

By Lauren A. RothmanStylist and fashion expert
Getty Images

Tis the season for festive fashion faux pas at the office. Whether you’re attending your own company soiree or will be someone’s plus one, make sure to keep your holiday inspired ensembles on point. While dress codes have shifted to be more casual at some companies, holiday attire should still be appropriate.

Party invites are out for the season and champagne towers will be high. Consider these events a form of networking for the job you want, not just the one you have. While you mingle with both senior management as well as employees you oversee, avoid making these embarrassing style mistakes.

Don’t be a “Sexy Santa.”

Office holiday parties are not an opportunity to cut your hemline in half or reveal too much cleavage. Guys, this goes for you too. Keep your dress shirts buttoned and pants shouldn’t be overly fitted. Your boss and coworkers don’t need to see you in leather head to toe, baring your midriff, or in excessively platformed high heels.

Do dress like a regular work day, make sure your clothing fits well and is not too tight, sheer, revealing or inappropriate.

Don’t overdress.

If you haven’t been hired to dress in costume, don’t. Leave your Hanukkah Harry and Santa gear at home. Festive inspired holiday wear is different than novelty style touches.

Do wear a red velvet tie or colored outfit like the one below and save your festive onesie to win best-dressed at your neighbor’s Ugly Sweater party.

Don’t be too wacky.

Office jokesters beware. Do not be the person who carries portable mistletoe or wears clothing that lights up like a christmas tree and jingles. Chances are high alcohol is free flowing, do not add to the mix with an obvious flask of eggnog or by wearing a drink guzzler helmet.

Do keep novelty fashion to a minimum and stick to a couple statement accessories. If you must, don a reindeer headband like the one below, or single light up holiday necklace.

Don’t be too flashy.

There is such a thing as too much sparkle. Have fun with the holiday spirit, but there’s no need to pair sequin shoes to a matching dress for an office luncheon. Feathers are fun on sleeves or even on a bowtie but leave the boa at home.

Do opt for fun shoes and jewelry for the ultimate icebreaker while you network your way around the buffet.

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