For years, I have pitied my friends who work in an office. They have to get up earlier than I do. They have to shower, dress presentably—if not in a power suit—and get out the door with enough coherence to last the entire day, or at least until they can come home and shed the office costume. Now, thanks to Skype, Google Hangouts and various other all-too-accessible video chat platforms, I’m feeling sorry for myself, too.
Not only has the whole workplace dress-up-or-down, Casual Fridays, dress-to-express revolution made going to work a lot more comfortable for many of us (unless you work in a law firm—and then, well, what can I say?), but the advent of webcams and video chat technology has also made it so I really can’t go to work looking like I just rolled out of bed – even if I have.
Of course, I can do what I want. I work at home, I have an office with all the technological bells and whistles, and I make my own schedule. In theory, total freedom. Except when one of my editors or clients decides, on a whim, that eight o’clock is the perfect time for a face-to-face. Do I really want to chance getting caught in my fuzzy blue-fleece bathrobe festooned with sheep appliqués, crusty drool in the corner of my mouth and sleep still in my eyes? Not so much.
And there’s the rub. It used to be that pajamas and pillow hair were fine. More than fine. They were a badge of honor. They were a telecommuter’s way of saying, “See, I can look like doo-doo, work in my jammies and still be as productive as the woman in the cubicle wearing a Prada pantsuit and matching Bluetooth.” (Memories of Jane Jetson…) Now, sadly, it’s makeup and stain-free clothes all over again. As another work-at-home friend puts it, “We may as well be going to a goddamn ball.”
But messing with my right to dress like a slob isn’t the only disaster video chat has wrought. A few weeks ago, my mother – who discovered the wonders of video calling when we lived in England – decided to reach out and touch someone. Namely me. Skype called, I answered, despite wanting to curl up in my office with a cup of coffee and my iPhone.
And there was my mother, leaning so far into her computer screen that I was sure her head was going to pop out on on my end and get right up in my face. She’s leaning and squinting; I’m cranky and suffering from back-to-school-itis. So instead of commiserating with me or asking me how it feels to have one boy in college, she cocks her head and says, “Oh my God, you look like hell!”
So long, yoga jammies. Hello, Bobbi Brown…