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Mentality
An inside look to how we think, how we work and who we are.

A Post-Pandemic Business Casual Crisis

Lynn McMahon   |    May 13, 2021 at 9:48 AM

Fifteen months into the pandemic, and I’m facing my first crisis. On June 2, Pipitone Group will shift away from work-from-home status and back to work-from-work status. That’s not the crisis.

No doubt, Zoom and Teams meetings will give way to face-to-face, my-office-or-yours meetings. Now we’re getting closer to the crisis.

When I engage in those meetings, my favorite yoga pants will not be invited. I will need to be in real-people clothes. And that alone shouldn’t be a crisis, but…

After a year, I no longer know what to wear to work. Seriously. I stand in my closet and just stare. What did I wear with what? Sure, black pants will work with that sweater. But I can’t wear black pants every day. What did I used to wear with that skirt? There must be something in here I wore with that. And what happened to the rest of my clothes? Didn’t I have a lot more clothes than this?

Another dimension of the approaching crisis – what exactly is business casual now? I mean, I know what it was pre-pandemic, but the concept was redefined when we were working from home. Are we defining it differently now? How many times did we say we turned off our camera on Zoom or Teams because of a ‘bad connection?’ Everyone knew that was code for ‘I’m still in my pajamas.’ So does that mean that sweatshirts and t-shirts (or heaven forbid, pajamas!) are now business casual? Let’s be honest – working from home has given us all a little too much insight into each other’s personal style.

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And what about shoes? OK, now the crisis has elevated to the highest level. I have not worn dress shoes since March 16. That’s March 16, 2020. At this point, my feet would walk out of the room if I even broached the subject of heels with them – even modest heels.

Several deep breaths later, and I calm myself. I can figure this out. Every working woman – and probably more than a few men – are facing the same challenges. Once I get back into the swing of things, my sense of style – whatever that might have been – will likely return. I’ll polish the jewelry (still workplace appropriate?) that has tarnished with neglect, reorganize my purse and pack my laptop. It will feel strange initially, but I’m betting it won’t take long until it feels familiar.

What will ease the transition back to real life will be the elements of work that remained constant throughout our work-from-home experience. That begins with great Pipitone clients. Fortunately, the amazing people we began this journey with remain engaged with us. In fact, we’ve added new friends along the way.

Our comfort will be enhanced as we see the friendly faces of our Pipitone colleagues and are reminded that they do, indeed, have legs. Seeing them whole and in context will re-instill our sense of team.

And the greatest constant is work so challenging that it stimulates and so rewarding that it motivates.

So, yeah, on second thought, maybe the return to the office isn’t quite the crisis I initially thought. As long as nobody minds that on the first day back I’ll likely be wearing jeans and sandals.

Lynn McMahon

Written by Lynn McMahon

A senior practitioner, Lynn is proficient in all dimensions of public relations, from strategy development to individual tactics. She has written for print media, TV, radio, video and speeches, and her media relations experience includes working with local, national and international reporters. Lynn is also an expert in crisis planning and management, and she provides essential coaching on topics such as message development, managing media interviews and crisis management.

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Pipitone Group 3933 Perrysville Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15214-1735

412.321.0879
info@pipitonegroup.com

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