Comfort is a simple concept, that's desired by all. Of course, the idea of ‘comfort’ is different from person-to-person, and as such, comfort is an incredibly complex and varied issue, with many layers to accommodate.
When considering clothing choices for comfort, there are many factors which might come to mind, to consider the context, the weather or planned activity. Generally speaking, we as people, don’t really get much choice in the types of clothing we wear, not that this is always a bad thing as these restrictions are often at times appropriate - for example nightwear in a snowstorm wouldn’t be the smartest choice.
However, there is one influence which has a profound impact on an individual’s choices, as well as being a dominant force in these decisions - and that's health.
Fashion over the years has tried to accommodate health needs in the everyday, however, the choice is not always ours. The workplace is one such environment which has control over our clothing choices, this varies from a company uniform to smart office attire, and the categories become limited.
The liberty of clothing choice is restricted by these rules, and indeed hinders upon our ability to accommodate health issues. Let’s explore the importance of comfort, and the impact it has on our productivity, mental health, and overall wellbeing.
The importance of comfort in the workplace
The world of work has made strides in workplace comfort. There is overwhelming evidence that the conditions of the workplace are directly linked to the wellbeing and productivity of staff. A well-designed workplace that helps employee’s relax and feel valued is a net positive for the company - and for the staff. The cultivation of strong, positive mental health should be an end goal for any company that wants to drive up employee satisfaction and productivity.
There has been mass effort to accommodate existing health conditions, and prevent future conditions developing in the workplace. A strong example being that it is a legal requirement that businesses hold their workplace to the law, namely the Health and Safety Regulations 1992. The most common encounter with this policy is likely the DSE assessment for screen-use in office spaces. There are even companies which offer services to manage this enterprise for you by providing research, DSE equipment, and strategies to increase employee wellbeing.
Unfortunately, these practices rarely accommodate the important value of comfort clothing in the workplace. Much discussion on clothing choice takes into account uniform modifications and types of clothing depending on seasonal differences, but the most important discussion is what can be worn. There has been a clear identification of these issues and strides have been made to accommodate the need for comfort clothing.
A step in the right direction: the age of workleisure
The movement towards a more casual dress code is being widely adopted by businesses - its value is being recognized. Both in terms of dress code at the workplace, and the companies making fashion products, all have adapted with this change. Retailwire points out the momentum behind the casualization of brands, with customers looking for close alternatives with products, such as dress pant look-alikes that are, in reality, yoga pants. But what of the potential health benefits?
We've briefly touched on some of the health impacts of these changes, namely the positive influence on mental health, the importance of which bears repeating due to the profound impact this has on day-to-day life.
However, another crucial development is the freedom to wear health accommodating and adaptive clothing in the workplace. Clothing which accommodates health can address illnesses which benefit from looser fitting clothing such as chronic pain conditions or musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis. Adaptive clothing however refers to clothing which is altered to the needs of disability, some of which would not be appropriate, easily used or allowed if dress codes were enforced.
There are many fantastic examples and amazing products being made such as Spoonie Threads, a waistband to aid those living with colostomy bags, or jeans that are adjusted in a variety of ways with Velcro fastening, hidden catheter openings, and more.
While these adaptive products may be available for the professional environment, the move towards workleisure has opened up the fashion space to more options for workers. Complex decisions for clothing can be limiting; and this momentum towards workleisure directly combats this and provides more space for personal expression for all types of people.
One event which has swept the world and forced radical change in the workplace is the global pandemic. COVID-19 has forced changes in the workplace with working from home becoming the preferred norm for a lot of people, and thus has become a highly valued necessity for people to remain in employment. Not only those working from home have felt the impact of this, as many offices have fully embraced casual clothing too.
I myself have felt the impact of this, and it has benefitted my health immensely. After being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at 11 year old, I have always suffered from the restrictive clothing expected of me, however the ability to adopt workleisure has meant that bloating and stomach aches caused by the condition can be more easily dealt with; no longer do I just need to grit my teeth through it.
The world of work has been shaken in recent times, for the better, as opening the table to a broader range of clothing choices at work is of massive benefit for every kind of person including those who have for health conditions.