Is Your Dress Code Turning People Off?

Posted in : HR Updates on 25 July 2022
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered: Dress Code; Orginsational Culture; Policies and Procedures

I recall an employee once making a case for casual dress across the business when not client-facing or attending meetings with external stakeholders. He worked in the Finance team and argued that his normal attire of shirt and tie made him feel uncomfortable and stifled his productivity. So did he have a point in terms of the impact that work clothes can have on performance or was it that he just felt more comfortable in jeans and hoodies? Or is it the case that we adopt a more professional attitude when we dress professionally and in turn our output improves?

Many companies, particularly in the tech space insist on dressing down as they want to promote a more casual work culture. The financial and legal sectors however tend to be more traditional.

According to The Independent, a new budget airline in Australia is the latest to ditch traditional uniforms for shorts and t-shirts arguing that the new look reflects current trends and won’t require cabin crew to cover tattoos or confirm to gender stereotypes.

Recent studies indicate that 61% of employees are more productive when the dress code is relaxed with 80% of staff who work in an environment with a dress code saying they don’t find them useful. On the other hand, research undertaken in the US has found that almost half of the companies surveyed of 1000 HR Executives reported a significant increase in tardiness, absenteeism and even flirtatious behaviour when the dress code was relaxed. They reports that employees who dress formally are considered to have high credibility and are more likely to be promoted into senior roles.

It would therefore appear that there are two very different schools of thought on this matter. On the one hand there are employers who view appearance as being a reflection on the company whereby a strict dress code conveys a sense of authority, responsibility and trustworthiness. Less conventional employers take the view that a relaxed dress code offers more diversity, attracts more talent and reaps happier, more productive employees.

Some questions worth considering when reviewing your dress code policy is what type of culture and employer brand do you want to portray as this will impact the type of people you attract, or indeed turn off? How many and often are employees in client-facing roles? What impression will casual dress have on the representation of your organisation and do employees in back-office roles need to dress formally, even in the Finance department?

A staff survey may be a good way to gauge how staff feel about your dress code and when they feel most productive. Ultimately there does not appear to be any scientific evidence to prove that attire impacts productivity and is more likely to be a very subjective matter. One person suited and booted may feel focused, professional and credible while the other may feel restricted, uncomfortable and frustrated. As we know, we’re never going to please everyone so start with your culture and decide what’s right for your organisation.

Useful Reading:

The Independent   

This article is correct at 25/07/2022

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Olga Pollock
firmus energy

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