Even throughout the war years, people often opted to look their best when they went out, which frequently included sought-after stockings, gloves, twin-suits, hats and the like. Men routinely wore suits to the office, complete with overcoats and hats as well. Prior to 1950, it was a time of formality for the average person - even when people only had a limited supply of outfits. But now, dress is open to interpretation, and with the era of Mark Zuckerberg-esque, t-shirt-wearing tech companies, some employees aren’t aware of what is and isn’t appropriate for the office.
No matter how cool that guy in accounting’s tattoos, muscle shirts, fake tan, and coiffed hair looks or the fashionista from marketing with her five hundred outfit accessories and sky-high heels makes outfit waves, having fifty unique dress interpretations in the office creates a disjointed company brand. To ensure you don’t have everything from t-shirts to suits to glittery jumpsuits walking through the doors, it’s important to have a formal or informal dress code policy in the workplace.
Here are 7 reasons why you need a dress code in the workplace. With an office dress code employees will...
- Look Smarter
- Outline Appropriateness
- Establish Company Brand
- Strengthen Unity
- Increase Productivity
- Prioritise Safety
- Ensure Pride and Responsibility
1) Look Smarter
Dress code isn’t always synonymous with uniform, but, depending on your industry, you may want to consider a uniform as a way for employees to look smarter and match your company brand. Whether you go the uniform route or not, establishing what people should wear is a good idea. In your policy, outline the types of looks you’d prefer. If everyone must wear suits, then say so. If t-shirts are okay as long as they aren’t ripped and look appropriate, then say that too. Many offices suggest a “business casual” look is best, but “business casual” is vague so be more specific about what it consists of. Is it khaki coloured slacks for men with button-down shirts and dress pants with blouses for women? Give employees a realistic idea of what they should wear to ensure everyone looks smart.
2) Outline Appropriateness
You may have one employee showing up to the office in short gym shorts and another girl showing up in a dress that looks more appropriate for a Friday night out on the town, so a dress code can serve to outline appropriateness; however, this part of the policy is tricky since you do not want to get into discriminatory territory and only enact policies that affect women (i.e. not too much makeup, clothing not too tight, skirts not too short, no cleavage, etc.) because it’s sexist and unfair. Make sure that policies tactfully let employees know what’s expected whilst not isolating any person.
3) Establish Company Brand
If you use uniforms, then you could establish company brand with a dress code. Go into any McDonald’s, for example, and you’ll see every employee wearing a uniform down to their footwear. Employees are easily recognisable if a customer needs help. For front-facing, customer-based companies, having a uniform that establishes company brand may be an excellent idea; however, be sure to have employee input on this point, provide uniform options, and ensure the uniform is both stylish and comfortable - and flatters most body types.
4) Strengthen Unity
Just as sports teams and school children wear a uniform to create unity, companies can have a dress code that promotes belonging. Uniforms and dress codes alike can make people feel they belong, outside of the striations of class and gender. If employees feel they are working towards the same company goals, wearing a unified look (whether it’s a uniform or professional attire), then they will feel more aligned with company values.
5) Increase Productivity
Studies show that wearing specific “work attire” has a mental impact on individual productivity. Noting that certain clothes hold symbolic meaning for people, so, just as wearing a gym outfit, may make people feel more fit and focused to work out, wearing a specific work attire will make people feel more focused. Consider how most people change after work. The psychological act of changing clothes allows people to realise they are “off duty.” Furthermore, “[t]his theory supports the notion that we would stay more focused when wearing work clothes, and may be more cognitively alert than if we dressed down.” Therefore, no matter your defined dress code - from casual to formal - giving your employees a definitive “work attire” positively impacts productivity.
6) Prioritise Safety
For certain industries where PPE is required, uniform policies can establish safe dress. Even, for example, in the hospitality industry, safe dress may include a uniform or business attire with something like a name tag or fob to determine which doors and buildings employees have access to. A dress code can differentiate between those who are in the right and wrong places and those who do and do not belong in certain areas. For example, you wouldn’t wear a suit to cook in a kitchen - you’d wear a chef jacket and chef trousers because a suit would be too hot and liable to catch on fire, rendering the choice unsafe. Outlining your uniform policy can highlight safety issues that employees may not have considered from industries such as manufacturing, food service, hospitality, and even for the office.
7) Ensure Pride and Responsibility
If an employee is part of a high-powered sales team, for example, and everyone wears smart well-tailored power suits, and there’s that one person who wears ill-fitting clothes, that sense of pride, responsibility, and company image will be diminished. Having a workplace dress code will ensure pride and responsibility amongst employees because everyone will know they represent your company and will wear their work attire with pride - be it simply a guideline all the way to a uniform.
Even though opinions of workplace dress codes and uniforms are a mixed bag with both positive and negative reviews, a workplace dress code establishes boundaries and rules which will make every employee feel comfortable overall. Your company dress code can be an informal, unwritten policy that’s flexible to keep workers happy, or you can get workers on board, and outline an agreed-upon policy more formally. Don’t suddenly wake up one day, announcing that everyone has to wear polyester, itchy lime green t-shirts and unflattering company trousers because, if your workers are uncomfortable and don’t want to wear the clothes you provide or enforce, you’ll have a less productive and less happy workforce. But if you keep everyone’s opinions on board and include employees in the dress code decision-making process, a dress code will work well for you.
Do you think a dress code is right for your business? Unsure of what to include? We can help.
If you are unsure of what options there are for workwear, Xamax can help. Download our FREE workwear buying guide to help decide on workplace dress code policies.