Digital Professionalism 101: Look and Dress Professionally on Your Next Zoom Call

A video call with colleagues is an important time to showcase your professionalism and that you respect yourself and them.
A video call with colleagues is an important time to showcase your professionalism and that you respect yourself and them.

Quarantine may end… eventually. Working remotely will not. You need to know how to look and dress professionally for Zoom and video calls.

As working from home continues to become the new normal for many, the novelty of your team wearing sweats and onesies will continue to wear off, and digital professionalism will set in. 

Just as companies have in-office dress codes and policies, it’s likely new policies will be created to include dressing appropriately for video conferencing. This will be particularly challenging for guys, as many were already less likely to focus on grooming and appearance before this change.

Here’s a guide to looking professional on your next Zoom call.

What to do

It’s easy to think you don’t have to shower or brush your teeth because no one has to smell you or your breath. Try and pretend they can virtually.

People who brush their teeth, floss, or use mouthwash are more likely to smile because they’re not afraid to open their mouths, which sets a better tone for any mood or meeting. That was made up, but there probably is actual science backing that. Since it makes total sense, just go with it.

Here are a couple of things to do before your first call, at least:

Wash your face 

Your face produces oil overnight, so if you don’t wash your face prior to your morning video call, your forehead will be in full shine. Opt for a face cleanser suited for your skin type, and try to avoid your regular bar soap as that could actually increase the amount of oil produced throughout the day.

Comb your hair

Few people have perfect hair when they roll out of bed (shout out to bald guys, good for you!). Hair is an important part of one’s appearance no matter if it’s in person or through a screen, so take a comb or brush, and style your hair. Use your normal products. Pretend you were going into the office.

These two things alone will make you feel better and more put together. Your coworkers will notice.

Bonus: Keep your nails tidy

Your hands are now visible more often. Whether you’re propping your elbows on the desk, talking while using hand gestures in front of your face, or scratching your nose mid-sentence, people can see your nails. Keep your nails tidy, and it will show you care.

What to wear

A simple rule to go by is if you are questioning whether an article of clothing is appropriate, assume others will be thinking the same thing. Err on the side of caution and choose something more appropriate.

Not dressed up, not dressed down

While it is easy to wear sweats everyday at home, putting on a polo or button down is the more professional option. Not only will it make you feel like less of a slob, it will show your coworkers you are ready for the day and you plan on working.

Wear pants. You can choose to wear sweatpants, denim, shorts, or whatever you want really, but wear pants. In the event you have to stand up suddenly, or you forget there’s a mirror behind you exposing your bottom half, you should have pants on.

Don’t wear a suit, and skip the tie. Unless instructed otherwise, or giving a formal presentation, ties look strange and unnecessary on a video call. It’s like you’re trying too hard. If you are one of those guys who wears a self-tied bow tie everyday, you can keep at it, and, respect.

Try to match the level of others that will be on the call, or the level of which you had to wear when you were going into the office. A blazer or sports jacket is ok if that was the dress code of those in your past-office life. If you choose a jacket, know that bright colors are distracting, and may not be appropriate for all viewers.

If you are wearing a t-shirt, you want to avoid your old graphic t’s no one was supposed to see, as well as looking like you’re wearing the undershirt you slept in. Most importantly, if wearing a t-shirt, follow the next tip…

Nix the wrinkles

No matter what you choose to wear, iron or steam your clothes. Wrinkles are sloppy and show a lack of care in your, and others’, appearance. If you don’t have an iron or steamer, consider getting one or at least buy a wrinkle-release spray.

Wearing a hat, appropriately

You may have the urge to wear a hat if you look like a wildman right now. That’s ok, for now.

Hats can block too much of your face, and more importantly, the light trying to hit your face. Tilt the brim upward to expose more of your face and decrease any shadows, or wear the hat backwards. Make sure it is appropriate, with no loud logos, inappropriate text or images, or too bright of colors.

Right now, hats are acceptable. When quarantine is over and you can go and get a haircut again, they are not.

How to do it

There are a couple tricks to make yourself appear better on camera. Use them.

Angles are important

Think back to the good ole’ days when you were speaking with someone in-person. You are usually about eye-level with them because you don’t want to be looking up or down at someone during the conversation. Try to recreate that effect, and position the camera to be at or slightly above eye-level. This way, you won’t be looking downward and creating an extra chin. 

When you’re looking straight or slightly upward, your neck is extended and your position looks more conversational. Put a few books under your computer to prop it up or lower your desk chair a little, if possible. 

Just don’t be looking down at the camera.

Soft light is your friend

Have you ever seen behind-the-scenes on a news interview or television show? There are lights. Lots of lights. Focused directly at the person on screen. This is because soft light softens shadows, lessens contrast and helps cover up blemishes on the face.

This isn’t to say you need to purchase a ring light or lightbox to have for your video conferences, but be aware of lighting wherever you are. If you are only using ceiling lights, that will cast shadows on your face. So what should you do if that’s your option?

Three quick fixes.

First, get a lamp. Position it behind and slightly higher than your computer, making it slightly off-centered. If it’s too bright, place the lamp behind the computer and off to the side a few feet, and bounce the light off the wall in front of you. If possible, use a cool bulb to provide soft, whiter light, rather than warm bulbs.

Second option, prop your phone’s flashlight (you can even dim it depending on your phone) a few feet away from you, angled towards your face.

Last option (or to be done with the others), put a piece of white printer paper on the table in front of you, positioning it so it can’t be seen. This will allow some light to bounce off and lesson any shadows.

Putting it Together

Digital professionalism is a thing now and it’s not going away. It’s important that you continue to show respect to coworkers and clients through your appearance. Use these basic tips to look and dress better on your video conferencing calls. You will feel better and your coworkers will notice.

To help with actual outfits you can wear or put together for your calls, get in touch with a stylist who can help you figure out what will look best on camera. GPS provides virtual styling sessions to create outfits for video conferences or can go through your entire closet. 

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