My Year in Sweatpants

In the past the beginning of March has always meant certain things to me – we have endured the worst weather of another Chicago winter and spring is close; the groundhog has seen his “tax” shadow so there is only six more weeks of tax season; golf season will soon be here; and a funny John Belushi bit about March coming in like a lion (worth the YouTube search).

But as we begin this March, I find myself reflecting on how much has changed in the past year and how quickly changes have become “normal”.  I haven’t seen a client in almost a year, assuming meetings on Teams or Zoom don’t count.  I just had an annual tax meeting through video with the last client I saw face to face last March.  When we originally closed our office twelve months ago, I remember saying to my partner, “see you in four weeks.”

2021 is a milestone year for my career in public accounting.  I have seen many changes and differences throughout my journey.  Though my experience includes multiple major tax reforms and law changes, one big change has been appropriate dress.  While the business community has slowly migrated to more casual attire, COVID and remote working have taken it to a new level.

When I started my first job, appropriate business dress was a jacket and tie.  Over the years, we have transitioned first to no jacket, then to no tie.  Fridays became casual Fridays, meaning jeans were acceptable.  Recently, jeans have become even more acceptable.

Working remotely and independently provided a relaxed atmosphere.  So why not be comfortable while working if I can’t see anyone?  I bought in, though it felt strange at first.  I felt like I was working for a tech start-up rather than within an accounting firm.  I quickly got over it, but it’s interesting to see how this has changed working culture.

Business Wire reported 60% of those working from home were wearing sweatpants. Additionally, 17% report wearing an office appropriate top and casual on the bottom.  This rises to 49% when taking a video call.  Clearly, comfort has beaten formality.

To recognize this change, CJBS held a Creative Casual Wear contest.  The intent was to let everyone express themselves and show their “flair”.  Participation was exceptional and prizes were awarded to the medalists.

Like so many businesses, we had to pivot and learn new processes and procedures to effectively service our clients.  We needed to establish virtual offices and remote working.  We had to find new ways to work together internally.

Now a year later, I am pleased to report how well we have adapted.  This by no means was easy and took everyone’s best effort to accomplish.  But the great news is we did it together.  If there was ever a test of our firm core values, COVID certainly has provided one.  Our three pillars of trust, collaboration and creativity are attributable to this success.

Now that we are in the office more frequently, it’s time to get back to “normal”.  Though I look forward to remaining business casual, I’ll leave the sweatpants at home.  More importantly, I look forward to reconnecting personally with clients and friends who we haven’t been able to see.  

We’d love to hear the stories about your year in sweatpants (or yoga pants). Please share using #MyYearInSweatpants, so we can build a community.

Michael W. Blitstein, CPA