Waist up

A story that is like 99 percent true, plus what 90 percent of people are doing. Oh, yes, we will do more "as told to's." And, 7 other things worth your time.

Funny story I’ve been telling lately. Maybe exaggerating a bit.

I got up the other morning during a heat wave — 90 degrees, easy — took a shower, and headed upstairs to my home office.

There’s a window air conditioner, but I’ve never loved AC if I can avoid it. So, I put on a pair of shorts, sat down in front of the computer, and started writing.

I wrote the first draft of that day’s Understandably, plus a couple of articles for Inc.com (this one and this one, if you care). Then, my calendar alerted me to a 12 p.m. Zoom call.

So I called up the screen, and realized at the very last opportunity, milliseconds before the the room filled with colleagues, that pandemic or no pandemic, I should probably put on a shirt.

I laughed. And it brought to mind my two favorite innocuous statistics of the pandemic:

  1. Only 10 percent of Americans actually get up in the morning, take a shower, and get dressed before starting the workday since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a study by NPD that was cited in the New York Times.

  2. Apparel companies report they’ve been selling more tops than bottom so far during 2020, which observers attribute to the fact that we’re all working from home now—and unless you have colleagues more adventurous than mine, people are unlikely ever to see you except for from the waist up.

The first stat is a bit surprising, since it seems every pre-pandemic “things you should do to work from home” article included a line about how crucial it was to get up in the morning and getting dressed, as if you were still commuting.

Seriously, everyone used to cite this. Recent examples: Teen Vogue. The Ladders. Me.

But when theory hits reality, reality wins.

I first read about these stats over the Fourth of July weekend, when I was in New Hampshire with my in-laws. After conducing an informal poll, I realized that a majority of my SILs and BILs do in fact follow the “Zoom shirt” model.

This basically means they have a single work outfit that they put on and take off, over and over, whenever they have to appear online.

For men, it seems to be a wrinkle free dress shirt--often solid color. For women, there are more wardrobe options, but the goal is the same.

We’re a funny people, when left to our own devices.

For years, employees have been asking for more flexibility — like the ability to work from home. But some employers held back when they could, for fear that we wouldn’t be productive.

With a handful of exceptions (like here and here, which I’ve written about), there was a lack of good research. But now, we’ve all teamed up for an enormous, involuntary experiment about working from home.

It’s probably the way many of us will remain for decades. And that means there’s now no lack of subjects for study.

Entire academic careers will be made on the fast transformation that so many workers have now made, worldwide, going from "I work in an office" to "I work from home" almost overnight.

And somewhere, sometime, somebody will probably get tenure by writing about the percentage of middle-aged white guy writers like me, who only realize at the last second they’re barely dressed.


Hey, enough about that. Thanks for the overwhelmingly, nearly 100 percent positive feedback about (a) Fred Rooney’s story and (b) the idea of doing more “as told to” articles—whether about other Understandably readers or others.

Yes, I’m going to do more of these.

No, I’m not sure what the cadence will be.

Yes, I would love to hear if you’d like to pitch an idea.

No promises, as I am still trying to figure out a process, and what this could look like long-term. Actually, I have at least one more week of vacation this summer, and I’ll try to get my subconscious to work on it while I’m gone.

Not a joke; if it weren’t for my subconscious, there are a lot of puzzles I’d never figure out.

But I’d love to hear from volunteers. Just reply to this email.

7 other things worth your time

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