Even before the pandemic, there was one strict rule in our house. On Sunday, no one could complain about your clothing choices. We called it our Sunday Rules.
We’re conservative people, so don’t imagine anything too far out or risqué. For the most part it meant wearing old clothes with holes in them or ancient dog-eaten slippers. The usual matching conventions of colors and textures were thrown out the window, so purples, browns and greens might be thrown together in a deranged rainbow. On rare occasions, a pair of pajamas could stay on until after lunch. In general, the policy was Be Decent but Be Comfortable.
Now, when everyday has the feel of a Sunday, the world has settled into its global Sunday Rules. My very first Zoom meeting, I asked the participants for a show of hands as to who was wearing shoes. No hands were raised, although a slightly higher number were in socks, it being early Spring. I didn’t dare ask about pants.
It is not just locally. A judge in Missouri went viral with his complaints that attorneys were appearing in remote legal proceedings wearing inappropriate clothing – tee shirts or sweats while presenting their petitions. One attorney, he claimed, was even still in bed during the conference.
This may be a quiet revolution. Just as teleconferencing has become a reality that is not likely to disappear, the social norms of dress and presentation may be battered. Productivity is not down among those who are working. The meetings are still getting done and decisions being made. One successful meeting occurred despite the CEO inadvertently projecting herself as a talking potato for the whole thing (I would have made all the officers choose an avatar both to avoid my embarrassment and to gain an interesting peek into their psyches). Maybe the world really can be run on a more casual basis.
I hope not. The way the competitive world works, people will be trying to outdo themselves in how grungy they can look. Plague beards are fun during pandemics and playoffs, but we don’t need everyone to look like they were shipmates of Robinson Crusoe. Also, think about the stress on dress-down Fridays or Ugly Sweater Contests. All the comfort would be wrung from the casual.
I would like to think that, when the normal world comes back, Sunday Rules will return to being a place of refuge (and idleness) and not become some sort of faddish expectation.
[This Post was adapted from a essay originally published on Facebook the day listed above]