Too hot, too cold? What to wear to work in when the weather is insane

Paige Breaux

From sweaty subway commutes to drafty air-conditioned cubicles, weird weather patterns can make it tough to figure out how to look put-together and still feel comfortable enough to focus on your assignments. Our work clothes help us feel confident and be taking seriously on the job. However, feeling good still tops looking good when it comes to your productivity. More than 30% of employees feel that a too hot or too cold work environment makes it difficult to concentrate on performance at work.

Our Boston-based team here at kununu is no stranger to dealing with any kind of weather mother nature can dish out – from sub-zero blizzards to balmy Spring mornings – sometimes all within a single week! So here’s a helpful guide to dressing for your office in extreme and unpredictable weather conditions (we did a similar guide on interview-attire, if you’re looking for advice on that too!):

1.) Snow

When navigating icy sidewalks, train platforms, and parking lots, functional footwear is a huge priority. Especially if you’re carrying a briefcase or work computer with you, an unexpected spill can easily turn into a very expensive accident. Thankfully, there are now tons of stylish and durable options for winter boots available from trusted brands like Hunter and L.L. Bean that won’t look too out of place with the rest of your work wardrobe.

If your commute means you’ll be stuck in the cold for long stretches of time, cover up any exposed skin by piling on classic winter-wear accessories like wool hats, leather gloves, and cozy cashmere scarves. Just make sure to hang up everything once you’re actually inside to avoid looking like a lost eskimo. Also, never underestimate the power of layering under your regular clothes with fleece tights and thermal shirts that will keep in the warmth without adding tons of extra bulk to your look.

If you find yourself still feeling cold inside the office, make use of accessories like fingerless gloves or a plain shawl/blanket to keep in your lap. Unlike the embarrassment of showing up to work in a Snuggie, the desk blanket” trend is growing more popular and versions are available in professional-looking patterns and knits.  

Above all: Never sacrifice safety for style. Trust us, your boss would rather you show up and do your job in a baggy sweater than call out suddenly for hypothermia.

2.) Rain

One of the easiest ways to look professionally chic in a downpour is with a high-quality coat. Both men and women can’t go wrong with the classic trench or double-breasted peacoat options. When investing in a rain jacket, it’s also best to pick a model that comes with a large, waterproof hood to keep your head hidden from the elements and avoid a drenched hair catastrophe.

You should also pick up a durable umbrella (not those $5 plastic models from the drugstore). You’ll thank yourself later when you won’t have to deal with it snapping open and inside-out suddenly in the middle of a freak thunderstorm.

If you want to keep your work pants looking fresh and dry and avoid sulking at your desk in damp socks, invest in a sturdy pair of waterproof rain boots. You’ll be so thankful that you did, when the next rain storm rolls through. Just make sure you remember to throw your regular shoes in a bag to change into, so you don’t annoy your coworkers by squeaking and sloshing around the office for the next 8 hours!

3.) Heat

Extreme heat is probably the hardest weather type to strike that perfect balance between an outfit that’s both professional and comfortable. Obviously spaghetti straps, denim-cutoffs, and flip-flops are rarely work appropriate looks for the summer. However, neither is spending the whole day dripping in sweat.

The common image of “dressing up” for work usually consists of heavy business suits and blazers, and that’s a daily standard of formality for a lot of offices no matter what the weather looks like. But cool doesn’t need to mean casual. Men can ditch the jacket and go for a lightweight button up or polo. Women too have plenty of choices by incorporating flowy summer blouses, cotton dresses, and mid-length skirts.

The key tip to avoiding heat stroke on the job is not to think less fabric but lighter fabric. Fabrics made from natural fibers like cottons, jersey and linens are your friends in steep temperatures because they won’t cling your your body and trap in excess heat. Meanwhile synthetics like polyester tend to be water-resistant and won’t help wick those sweat drops off your skin.

And if you’ve tried everything but still worry about showing off your sweat patches to your coworkers, pick lighter colors that won’t show stains as well (and double up on deodorant!)

4.) Constant Fluctuations

As seasons shift, relying on the morning weather report to help choose your outfit becomes much more of a gamble. When highs and lows range from mid 30s to low 70s in a single 24-hour period, planning ahead feels like solving  a complicated closet mind puzzle. The easiest way to handle uncertain weather at work is by starting out with a few light layers and packing 1-2 pieces of outerwear in your car/work bag.

Start out with a basic t-shirt/button down and cardigan combo, and pack a light jacket to keep at your desk if a sudden chill kicks in. It’s also smart to carry a small portable umbrella or waterproof hat with you as well to avoid getting soaked during rush hour.

Many workplaces will also have a closet space for employees to keep a few items if you want to avoid the added back-pain of lugging all your stuff to-and-from the office every morning.

And while we all dream of showing up to the office as fabulously put-together as “Mad Men’s” Don Draper or Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada,” remember at the end of the day your success isn’t measured by how you look when you get to work  but by what you do once you’re there.

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Have any more tips for dressing for the office in the face of crazy weather conditions? Share with us @kununu_US!