Office dress codes for modern times

Office dress codes for modern times

A question that we’re often asked here at Centric HR is about dress codes.  All too often senior leaders and business owners have a set view of what they deem to be suitable and not suitable, and then, rather than engage with their employees – they attempt to capture it all in words and send out a policy or an email!  This is the very first step to alienating the workforce – yes, even your most productive and motivated employees!

The down side of these draconian policies is that they are often discriminatory between men and women and impossible to police.  E.g. “females must wear skirts no shorter than one inch below the knee”.  I remember asking who would be the one to measure everyone’s skirt that day and whether we would send that person home or not….?

Our biggest message to all business owners and senior leaders is for them to understand how dress codes have evolved and along with society, and the recent leaps and bounds that have been made have changed the playing field around workplace attire – together with understanding and questioning their own opinions, preferences and influences:

The rise of Silicon Valley, and the freedoms that have been granted with these companies around what employees wear in their worktime have had a global effect on what we can and can’t wear in the office.

Dress codes are now fast becoming defunct in an office environment, but there are areas where a uniform of sorts must be retained. Customer facing colleagues will always have to wear clothes advertising the brand they are representing. Industrial workers will always have to ensure they are correctly clothed for health and safety reasons.

The environment and attitudes are changing throughout the world, and to be in a position to recruit and retain the best employees’ companies have to evolve.

So, as an employer, what is the best way to ensure that your employees are comfortable and happy, yet your branding and reputation as a business is maintained?

Office environments are much easier to evolve in this area, as there is no need for items such as safety or hygiene equipment. For office colleagues, the suit is something that need only be worn when meeting with clients. Suits give the right impression when needed, but everyday wear needn’t be something uncomfortable.

Fashion company Style Compare held a recent study of 2,000 adults in the UK, and the results showed the changes are coming along slowly. Four in every ten were required to wear business attire, and eight out of ten went to work wearing what they were told to in the company dress code. 61% of the study said that sticking to the dress code did not have a positive impact on productivity, and 45% felt that they would be more productive wearing what they felt most comfortable in.

If rules are relaxed, colleagues will make the decision to either dress up, or down dependant on their working day and whether the are in meetings or not. The level of relaxation is the decision of senior management and could be as simple as taking ties out. Taking this step does not necessarily mean that all employees will be wearing jeans and trainers to work.

The persistence of the dress code is customary. A whisper of history. Something that as younger generations become modern senior leaders, inhibitions change, and older norms are challenged. The man who owns and is CEO of three of the biggest worldwide communication companies, let us not forget, goes to work everyday in jeans and a black hoodie.

What would suit the younger leaders of the times? A flexible dress code that suits each individual, not the predispositions of a senior leader.  So it’s time to rip up those policies that cannot be policed and make no sense in a modern organisation.  Talk to your people and agree the boundaries that suit the business to ensure they feel engaged and valued.  Engaged and valued means motivated, creative, loyal and productive.

If you need assistance with HR issues please feel free to contact us here for a free no obligation chat.

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Picture of Sandra Berns

Sandra Berns

Centric HR was founded by Sandra Berns, a confident and versatile Human Resources and Organisational Development Practitioner with 25 years demonstrable experience and a Fellow of the CIPD. Sandra has both Operational and Strategic HR expertise across Public and Private sectors and has assisted senior teams in meeting challenging workforce objectives in many corporate environments.