How To Stay Cool In Summer: Work Edition

Honing your style for an office environment can be a challenge in general, let alone during the summer months when temperatures outside are scorching, and the office feels like a freezer! In today's post I hope to offer some realistic options for staying cool outside while being comfortable at your desk. 

You are probably wondering, what kind of experience do I have to be writing a post like this? So for several years, I have worked in Corporate Human Resources for very large to medium sized businesses, and then after becoming a mom, I started my own HR consulting business. I help leadership teams and business owners with a host of employment related matters including Executive Presence (EP). One factor that helps to determine success in attaining Executive Presence or being viewed as a leader is appearance (if you are interested, see more on this here from Syliva Hewett - the EP expert!). 

I was challenged by one of my favorite men's retailers Bonobos to share my tips and tricks for staying cool all summer long. So today's post incorporates two personal passions - fashion and office presence! I will share 5 things that worked for me as I defined my summer office style, and then I will share some professional summer looks for both women and men! 

1 - Determine your personal brand
Who are you authentically as a professional? What is the image you want to portray to your manager, colleagues, customers, etc.? What are your values? Defining your personal brand will help you as you are selecting your attire for work this summer and beyond. I have always been told that unless you have to wear a uniform, dress for the job you want to have. It helps with perception but also with your confidence! 
2 - Find a mentor/champion 
If you are looking for some guidance on what to wear in your specific office environment, try finding someone you admire, and take cues from how they dress. My first HR job was at a Fortune 10 business. I was fresh out of grad school at 23 and was trying to overcome the fact that I actually looked 18! I worked in the same building as our Chief HR Officer and had some exposure to her during meetings and projects. I made mental notes about how she carried herself and how she dressed so I could learn from her. I then found other mentors throughout my career where I gained knowledge and candid advice as it relates to dressing for work! 
3 - Read your Employee Handbook
So I know...snooze alert! I have written more employee handbooks than I can count, and almost all include specific guidelines on what the leadership team sees as professional attire...and what is not acceptable. Some offices are more creative or casual while others require a strict business professional look. At my first job, no lie, we actually had to send someone home for wearing a full body, skin tight "cat-suit" to the office! Take the guesswork out of it and take a peak at the dress code policy. 
4 - Combine the policy with your personal brand
Even if the office dress policy is less defined, think about what kind of message you want to portray as you are dressing for summer. It can be easy to show more skin with spaghetti straps, shorter skirts or the popular off the shoulder look (which is a favorite of mine!), but determine if that look is in line with the image you want to portray. Maybe yes, maybe no depending on the work environment. It is all about knowing yourself, your career aspirations, your current office environment and then picking your attire based on that! 
5 - Tips I learned from city commuting in the summer 
When I lived in New York City I would commute from my apartment to a business casual office via the subway. If you have ever ridden the subway in the summer you know how HOT it gets. Here are some practical ways that I stayed cool:
  • Stay away from fabrics that don't breathe - satin, polyester, rayon, etc. Fabrics that I found to be more comfortable are cotton, linen and light silk. 
  • On particularly hot days, opt for a sleeveless dress/top that is appropriate for your workplace, but pack a light sweater in your purse that you can put on inside for coverage.
  • Keep a blazer, wrap or jacket in your office just in case you need it. You can even try tying a scarf to your bag to accessorize it and give you another layering option!
  • Pack a small "refresh kit" in your bag. Things to include are {affiliate links} blotting papers, cooling wipes, travel size dry shampoo, a hair tie, and other products that make sense for you personally! 
  • Keep a bottle of water with you to stay hydrated and feeling cool outside during your commute - I love this marble Swell bottle for the office.
Here are some key pieces to help you and your guy stay cool during the summer days when you are working!

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