On a warm Tuesday morning, 53-year-old Joe Schulte (which is an alias) closes his webcam cover. He stacks a pullover shirt and a pair of shorts nearby in preparation for any spontaneous Zoom meetings. He then unties his robe, lowers his naked behind into an adjustable, ergonomic, employer-provided office chair (draped with a towel) and gets to work.
“My work is typical office work: Phone calls, emails and reports,” Schulte tells me. He previously spent his workdays in slacks and button-down shirts, but when the pandemic liberated him from the office, he developed an affection for doing his tasks in the nude, weather permitting (on chilly days, he covers up).
It started as a way for Schulte to soak up some sun on his deck during lunch breaks but has since evolved into 9-to-5 nudism, save for exceptionally busy days. “If my work is such that it requires great focus, I’ll stay dressed to avoid the distraction that being nude often presents,” he explains — namely, “the need to be vigilant regarding the state of my camera.” (Ever since Canadian politician William Amos accidentally bared everything to his colleagues on a Zoom call in April, Schulte says he’s been feeling more on edge.)
But Schulte isn’t a complete stranger to nudism. Even as a kid, he felt comfortable without clothes. “Gym showers never bothered me, flashing dares were a piece of cake and skinny dipping, streaking and such were common,” he says. As such, he’s been a regular at one of his local nudist resorts for decades now. “Working nude is just the latest opportunity to live this lifestyle,” he explains.
Many appear to agree with Schulte: The pandemic has sparked a rise in nudism and memberships to nudist associations, not only because being naked can be liberating, but also because there’s less pressure to dress up for work when it happens at home. In other words, the facade of professionalism has fallen, and some people are realizing they feel more comfortable uncovered.
Not to mention, nudity can be just plain convenient. “Laundry is minimal,” Schulte notes. It also doesn’t hurt that being in the buff spices up his workday. “I get the secret thrill of talking to coworkers and customers alike, imagining what they’d be thinking if they only knew, and wondering if perhaps they aren’t also nude,” he adds.
Thirty-four-year-old John Campbell (who also requested we change his name) also toils in the nude (or semi-nude, depending on the situation), not because he feels inclined to bare everything, but simply because it’s practical. He works as a recruiter and for a non-profit from a camper van while traveling the country, and it gets too hot for clothes every now and then. “I generally prefer to be comfortable, and sometimes that means peeling off a layer of clothing,” he tells me. For him, it’s simply about wearing what makes sense in the moment, which at times is nothing at all.
Meanwhile, a pseudonymous Sherman Williams, 41, works from home as an analyst, and he took up nudism simply because it provides easy access to his dong. “I’m constantly playing, stroking and edging,” he tells me. (Whom among us hasn’t taken a masturbation break while working from home?)
But none of that stops Williams from being a star employee. “It’s rarely distracting until I get close to cumming, but when I take care of that, I’m even more relaxed and quite productive,” he assures me. “It’s more of a relaxing state of being than a sex romp.”
Of course, horniness isn’t the motivation for many work-from-home nudists. “Many people think nudists are perverts,” Schulte says. “I’ll let you in on a little secret: They are, but no more perverted than the average-clothes person walking down the street, and probably less so in many ways. Nudists separate seeing the naked body and sex.”
It’s this blurring of the lines between work and nakedness (as well as nakedness and sex) that could be good news for how we perceive the human form in the U.S., especially if enough people take to working from home in the nude. “Hopefully it will help remove the stigma of nudity or normalize it,” Schulte says. This would be a boon for everyone: As studies show, openness to nudity is associated with more positive body image, higher self-esteem and greater life satisfaction.
But even if working from home in the nude doesn’t spur social change, it still helps people like Schulte get through yet another workday during a seemingly never-ending global pandemic.
“Life is often too short,” he says. “YOLO.”