Do Uniforms Have a Place in Modern Business?

The modern workplace is adaptive. It changes with the ebb and flow of trending ideas and new-age thinking. With those changes can come unexpected movement, such as the demise of the uniform. But should businesses really be considering doing away with this age-old concept?

Company uniforms

According to data collected last year, only 10% of people wear a suit to work, with 70% opting for casual attire over formal workwear. In recent years, businesses have relaxed their policies on workwear uniforms, allowing many to adopt a flexible stance on what they wear day to day. While there is something to be said for giving your workforce a choice in what they wear, are you losing something by not enforcing at least some sort of dress code? For some, formal wear may seem like an archaic notion, but the presence of uniform has actually been shown to provide numerous benefits for your workforce.

So how exactly could introducing a more stringent and formal dress code help your business develop?

Encourage a Professional Mindset

It’s not just corporate buzzwords or jargon thrown at you by life coaches; you really can dress for success. Research into work attire and its effects on psychological state has discovered that formal workwear actually has a positive impact on alertness and focus. In an article for Forbes, Psychology Professor Dr. Karen Pine is quoted as saying:

“When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment. A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it’s ‘professional work attire’ or ‘relaxing weekend wear’, so when we put it on we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning.”

Essentially, this means if your employees wear their casual clothing, they will likely adopt a more casual attitude. By having your staff come into work wearing what they associate as “work clothes”, you effectively place them into “work mode”. You don’t want your employees in any other kind of mindset, otherwise, you risk declines in effective output.

Improve Customer Perception

In some circumstances, wearing a uniform is not only beneficial but actually necessary. Certain industries, such as healthcare and wellness, hospitality, and retail, have consumer expectations to meet. A chef wearing sweatpants isn’t going to encourage confidence in their skills on the job. In other areas of business, expectations might not be so high, but there is still a general assumption that professional attire means a professional outlook and experience.

An example of this is a retail staff member not wearing a uniform or formal attire. This could cause confusion with customers when attempting to locate personnel for help. In an entirely different scenario — but one still affected by perception and awareness of uniform and formal clothing — an employee turning up to a client meeting wearing jeans and a hoodie may not offer the right impression and, therefore, reduce potential interest and engagement. If they wore a shirt and tie, however, they may receive a different reception and, as a result, achieve a different outcome.

What we wear has been shown to have a direct impact on how people perceive us. Meeting expectations in a business environment can be the difference between success and failure. Uniforms and formal dress codes have the potential to ensure third parties perceive your business and its employees in the right way.

Promote Business Branding and Awareness

Any role that is community driven or requires movement between locations has the potential to build business awareness through branded uniforms and workwear. There are a variety of work-related activities that could lead to increased brand power if uniforms were introduced as part of company policy, which include:

  • Attending and speaking at events or community gatherings
  • Working on jobs outside of headquarters, such as visiting clients or customers
  • Roles that result in the creation of shareable media, such as photos or videos
  • Any kind of face-to-face client work.

Having a logo or recognizable uniform may not seem like an expert marketing technique, but simple exposure of a brand has actually been shown to impact customer memory and produce a factor of recognition. This leads to a higher chance of said customer thinking of your business when they are in need of your particular products or services over brands they have never had this kind of visual exposure to.

Company uniform

photo credit: Mike Hoff / Flickr

Boost Efficiency and Equality

This is a very simple principle, but its practicalities will likely ring true with a lot of business owners and employees alike. Having a uniform or formal dress code policy does two things:

  • It means there is no choice to be made when it comes to work attire — at least, not a lot. You may have the ability to pick between which combination of clothing you wear, or what shirt to put on, but you are ultimately limited in your options when compared to a completely casual outlook on workwear. The result is that it becomes a quick process of choosing what to wear every day, making getting ready for work a more efficient activity. It may sound trivial, but simplifying this process can provide a greater focus and reduce incidences of staff being late for work.
  • It also creates equality in the workplace. When what you wear is dictated by policy, you needn’t worry about differences in financial position, culture, or other aspects of personal life that may influence professional perception. Everyone is put on an even keel, with no risk of disparities being caused by how people within the business dress. Uniforms create just that: uniformity. Like it or not, humans are naturally judgmental. What we wear influences how others see us. Removing the potential for this can be beneficial for building a sense of community and a cohesiveness that negates the chance of attire impacting perception and the judgments we make.

Uniforms and dress codes may appear like mundane practice, but their impact on business performance should never be underestimated. The wearing of professional or branded attire has been in use for centuries, and for good reason. It may seem old-fashioned, but not all 21st-century trends make sense or elevate business success. Sometimes, the tried-and-tested methods are the ones that continue to yield the best results.

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