Would your boss have a stroke if you came into work wearing flip-flops, or would he be wearing a matching pair? Over the years, the standards for “acceptable” and “professional” clothing has changed, especially from workplace to workplace. People often think of a traditional workplace with women in pencil skirts and heels, and men donning suits and ties. Nowadays, many places allow much more casual dress codes, from “business casual” button-downs all the way to T-shirts and jeans.
While there is no scientific study that shows attire concretely affecting productivity, one Forbes article sites a study that shows the importance of people dressing professionally to feel more professional. Psychologically, if you look the part, you feel the part and will work accordingly. The study also showed that people specifically dressed for work had better focus on their job than if they were not.
However, it’s also been said that casual dress reduces stress and increases collaboration. An article from Fast Company describes Ash Sethi’s experience working in the Senate, and Amanda Augustine working at TheLadder, both having such strict dress codes that they were anxious about what to wear to work daily.
With this in mind, how do company leaders and supporting HR staff decide how employees should dress? Here are five things to consider when employing a company dress code:
- Who are your customers, and how do they view you? Your customer base is a very important factor, because people will always judge on appearances. If they are looking for someone very professional, perhaps the traditional suit and tie is the way to go. If they are more modern, or you don’t see them often, a more casual dress code could work.
- Define what “professional” and “casual” look like in your workplace. The definitions are not the same for everyone, so be clear in what counts for each category and when it is appropriate to dress for each. Does casual mean a button-down shirt without a tie, or a T-shirt and jeans? Be very specific.
- The nature of the work being performed and safety standards. There should be a difference in what employees are expected to wear between a desk position and an assembly line – think about the work being done and what makes the most sense for clothing restrictions.
- What effect will a dress code have on employee morale? Depending on the strictness, it could have an effect on employee performance. Keep in mind the above-mentioned effects dress can have on mindset.
- Last, and most importantly, be aware of the legal regulations of dress codes. Your dress code cannot be discriminatory in gender, race or religion. Pay close attention to what this means in each category and abide accordingly.
What kind of dress code does your workplace employ?