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Work Dress Code – Do or Don’t?

work dress codeFor a lot of workplaces, dress codes don’t play as significant of a role as they once did. Policies regarding what employees can and can’t wear have loosened up a bit in recent years. Of course, there will always be industries that require work dress codes for safety reasons (construction, etc.) or in order for customers to easily identify staff (healthcare, food services, etc.) But what about other industries? How far should employers go when establishing a work dress code?

There are opinions on both sides of the fence when it comes to work dress codes. Some believe there are benefits to having a dress code and others think it’s not necessary. Some of the most common reasons from those who think it’s a good thing is that work dress codes can help support a company’s brand and strengthen the culture. Many think they can help protect against everyday safety hazards. After all, who wants Mary in Accounting to trip on Bob’s flip flops that he left sitting in the middle of his office? Another advantage to having a work dress code is it helps maintain a consistent image when it comes to public perception of a company. This can be particularly important for businesses that are in the public eye (sales reps, doctor’s offices, etc.) or for companies that have clients that frequently visit the office and engage with employees.

The Casual Shift
More and more people these days, however, view dress codes – especially strict ones – negatively. The shift is partly due to our workforce becoming younger. Millennials now make up a significant percentage of workers across many industries, and many of them are in favor of a casually-dressed workforce. According to an Inc.com article, 40% of Millennials take their business inspiration from Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire Facebook founder who famously wears a gray t-shirt and jeans to work every day (and sometimes ‘dresses it up’ with a hoodie). No doubt the days of all CEOs wearing a crisp business suit and tie are gone.

Other reasons for workplaces going casual include the competitive job market. Inc.com reports that over half of job seekers think a work dress code is very or moderately important, so companies are using flexible dress codes to attract talent. Remote workplaces are another reason that employees are dressing down – as more individuals work from home or from a co-working space, there’s less need for formal attire. And as creative expression in the form of tattoos, piercings and colored hair rises and becomes more commonplace, employers are beginning to loosen the dress code rules.

What to Do?
When establishing a work dress code for your company, a little common sense goes a long way. The important thing to remember is make sure your dress code suits the specific needs of your company and supports your company culture and mission. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Have a good reason for your dress code. Consider the industry you’re in and go from there. If your business involves working with customers from an older demographic, then consider implementing a dress code that is more conservative in nature. If your business engages with a younger generation, then a more casual dress code might be the way to go.

Don’t leave your work dress code open for interpretation. Make sure the rules are clear for employees. There are lots of different kinds of dress codes for employers to consider. Salary.com outlines some of the most common ones – formal (business suit or dress/skirt); business casual; jeans and t-shirt; shorts/sandals; or no dress code.

Get employee opinions. What kind of dress code would your employees prefer? Gather their input and set the guidelines based on what the majority of team members want.

Make sure your work dress code is fair. Whatever dress code you have, make sure it doesn’t discriminate against sex, religion or race.

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