Does your laptop carrying case affect your professionalism?
There’s a good chance you own a laptop. But what do you carry it in? For office workers, there’s been a subtle trend away from the traditional rectangular laptop case to a laptop backpack.
Personally, I prefer the latter. Backpacks are easier to carry, free up your hands, and can often carry more than just your laptop. But the backpack has historically been an accessory used by kids going to school. Office workers, in contrast, have used the traditional rectangular laptop case.
We wondered, does using a backpack reduce perceptions of your professionalism?
We conducted an experiment with 400 people on Amazon Mechanical Turk in which participants were shown a photo of either a traditional rectangular laptop case or a laptop backpack (randomly assigned). Participants were instructed to “Imagine you work in an office and a new co-worker just arrived carrying his [laptop case / laptop backpack], shown below.”
Lenovo laptop case and backpack from Walmart.com
Participants were then asked “How professional does this co-worker seem to you? (1 = Not at all, 7 = Extremely)” using a 1-7 scale.
There was no practical difference in professionalism between bringing a laptop case (avg. = 5.36) versus a backpack (avg. = 5.33), (p = 0.860). Our 95% confidence interval of -0.27 and 0.19 suggests that even if we were to re-run this study, it is very unlikely we’d find anything more than a trivial difference. Finally, we found no interactions with gender or age.
The results bring good news to backpackers. The modern-day trend of carrying your laptop in a backpack is just as professional as the traditional laptop case. And if you’re more partial to the traditional case, that’s just as good.
Daniel Brown is an award-winning researcher, social scientist, and founder of AB Labs. He holds a doctorate in Management from Harvard University and has conducted over 100 randomized controlled trials in social psychology.