24 June 2020

‘a wardrobe of top-halves’: the modern Salesperson’s dilemma

Even in lockdown, I know someone who puts on his neck lanyard (displaying his corporate ID card) for web-meetings; our charismatic CEO often engages with us (via MS Teams) in a smart t-shirt whilst my manager usually wears an office shirt for such calls; yet it feels like only yesterday when a meeting in the City allowed you to wear anything you want, so long as it was a suit (and black shoes – brown shoes were a faux pas).

Then I recall a colleague going to see a big I.T. player who recited being told if he arrived in a suit then he would be stopped at the door and progress no further.  Any suit – even if lacking a tie!

How quickly times, attitudes and fashion changes. 

My personal business-casual only relaxed as far as chinos and an open collared work shirt.  However, at home there were no rules.  Perhaps because of this, I used to vehemently avoid use of a webcam (blaming corporate IT policy, etc), I’d actually scoff at those who did.

It was only recently that a potential customer changed my opinion, and did so radically!  Bored with the visuals of my home office surroundings, and with a larger than life (full screen) head-and-shoulders of the customer – sat so close that in real life anyone would call it invasion of personal space – I left the call wowed by the intensity of the engagement. 

I have to admit – I went straight out and bought myself a webcam.  I even painted the wall behind me.  And that’s where the clothing quandary starts, or do I overthink things?

  • What is webcam etiquette? what is appropriate attire for future web-meetings? or perhaps the question is whether people should or even do care?
  • Are people accustomed to a family and home background or was that mid-Covid de rigueur?
  • Are [pretend office] virtual backgrounds suitable or is that novelty best reserved for the zoom ‘pub’ alternatives?  Is a fuzzy blank background the safest bet or will corporations create / mandate their own preferred virtual backgrounds – over the mess of home – that we should use?

I cannot suggest out-of-bed-head hair and slept-in-a-bus-stop stubble, but wonder if the future of homeworking leaves us needing a wardrobe of top-halves that get changed between calls, subject to the expected participants. 

a wardrobe of top-halves

I consider myself a relatively accomplished home worker; for many years I have had a corporate office and one at home too.  I could not be without our HQ – and I miss the social interaction – but home working is fantastic for my productivity and a healthy mix prevails.  For me, I think I will stick to patently working from home, whilst trying to be smart, and hope that doesn’t offend; I will stick with using the webcam a lot more.   I hope the open mindset remains for the many of whom this has become the recent norm and we don’t just slip back to old expectations.

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