Life @ U of T

Five ways I stay Comfortable (and Professional!) During Online Classes

Understanding how to achieve the balance between comfort and professionalism in the age of online school is a topic that is seldom discussed. These unprecedented times have left students scrambling to understand which learn-from-home set up works well for their comfort while respecting the etiquette of video calls. Though the common advice of “find a quiet spot in your home” and “have nice lighting” are well understood—what about the more nitty gritty things, like proper attire?

Studying from home brought me the added benefit squashing my commuting time to zero and the joy of swearing sweatpants all day. But I often felt that what constitutes an appropriate top brings much more ambiguity. Surely, I cannot be expected to show up to each Zoom call in a crisp blazer and collared shirt—so what is it that I am to wear?

I have observed the clothing choices of my classmates and found a variety of tops, from hoodies to knit vests over collared shirts. Generally, my professors dress in business casual as they would in a physical setting. I have spotted among them colorful blazers and loose ties hanging around tight buttoned collars. While there is a consensus on what constitutes the norm of proper dress among instructors, what students are expected to wear is still “up in the air.” Generally speaking, I sport a cozy knit sweater or a thin long sleeve under an overshirt. The first option looks effortlessly put together for fall and winter weather, and the second allows me to easily add and shed layers.

Though cameras point only at my upper body, I feel it is still important to wear pants—such as in the case that I get up to exit the frame. My favorite are the knit trousers that have been trending in the fall time, they often come with a stretchy waistband: perfect for sitting down. The bottoms, though often unseen among others, are important considerations for personal comfort! I also like to wear knit socks on colder days, or to place a space heater near my feet so they don’t get cold.

A brown loose sweater worn with beige and grey marled sweatpants.

Sitting near a window can be argued as a means to absorb the cold air that tends to linger around them, but it has been a welcome practice for my experience in online classes. Not only does the sunlight coming through provide adequate lighting for my video, but it also keeps me awake and alert. Moderate sunlight exposure is understood to boost our mood and focus by boosting serotonin levels; serotonin is also known as the 'happiness hormone'.

I also make sure to stay satiated—without disrupting the flow of online classes—by keeping a drink nearby. A glass of water is a welcome and popular companion, but other options to spruce my drink options up include a home-made latte in the morning or a glass of chocolate milk in the evening. Given the colder weather, I am especially enjoying hot apple cider. I heat a mug of cider in the microwave before class starts, and take sips to stay alert and hydrated.

A mug of coffee sits beside a laptop on a glass table.

I am still in the midst of finding a perfect set up to get the most out of my virtual classes while staying comfy and looking professional. I would love to hear your tips and tricks on a cozy virtual schooling set up in the comments section below!

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