We're all a bit more relaxed when we work from home. Understood. But, some attorneys took it a bit too far and had the Weston, Florida (because, of course, it was Florida) Bar Association had to add this pop-up message to their website:
One comment that needs sharing and that is the judges would appreciate it if the lawyers and their clients keep in mind these Zoom hearings are just that: hearings. They are not casual phone conversations. It is remarkable how many ATTORNEYS appear inappropriately on camera. We've seen many lawyers in casual shirts and blouses, with no concern for ill-grooming, in bedrooms with the master bed in the background, etc. One male lawyer appeared shirtless and one female attorney appeared still in bed, still under the covers. And putting on a beach cover-up won't cover up you're poolside in a bathing suit. So, please, if you don't mind, let's treat court hearings as court hearings, whether Zooming or not.
Work is still work. Yes, this is an abnormal situation. Yes, you should be forgiving of employees with childcare issues, or space issues, but it's still work.
You still need a dress code.
While I fully support the judges in their admonition to treat a Zoom hearing as a regular hearing, I also recognize that not all of us conduct formal legal proceedings from our bedrooms. I also admit that a cat walked across my keyboard and yanked my headphone cord out of my ear during a Zoom meeting this morning. But, I'm not pleading my case before a judge.
Your dress code can vary. This has made the internet rounds, and it's hilarious. It's also okay for some businesses.
It may or may not be okay for yours, and that's okay. You just need to set expectations for what is acceptable and what is not acceptable for your time. For instance, you could say;
For internal meetings
- Pants/skirts are required even if you don't think you'll stand up
- No pajamas
- Chests and stomachs should be covered
For external meetings
- Professional background (this can be a blank wall, bookshelf, or similar)
- Business casual shirt
- Business casual pants/skirt
- Business casual grooming
- Children and pets out of hearing and sight
- Use headphones to reduce background noise
Remember that your clients and bosses have expectations of how you should look--some of them conscious (see the Bar Association warning above) and some of them unconscious. You may think it's okay to wear your pajamas because everyone is working from home, but if you're meeting with your boss or a client or even a direct report, how you're dressed will directly influence how they feel about you and your message.
Just because you are your staff work remotely, doesn't mean it's a free for all. And, remember, if you're going to court to represent others, they are paying you to get out of bed and wear proper clothing.