When you run a business with onsite staff, it is down to you to set the policy when it comes to how you expect people to present themselves at work. However, while office dress codes used to be pretty much expected by employees, more and more businesses, particularly in certain sectors, are abandoning the concept in favor of less restrictive dress policies.
1. Dress Code Options
There used to be just a few options for your office dress code. You could have a formal business dress code, a business casual dress code (where men, for example, could wear a shirt without a tie but things like jeans, t-shirts and sneakers were not allowed), or no dress code at all. The only diversion from these tended to be the ones where there was a business or business casual dress code from Monday to Thursday, and then a ‘casual Friday’ policy.
Now, however, things tend to be a lot more flexible. Some companies have policies where only staff above a certain level, or who are client facing have to adhere to a dress code, and everyone else can wear whatever they want. Some policies are relaxed dress for everyone, but with some extra policies like that tattoos need to be covered up, or that sportswear isn’t allowed.
2. A Question of Branding
The reality of our modern approach to dress codes is really that how our staff look is a part of the business’ brand. Companies who want to look and feel conservative and traditional favor the conventional business and business casual dress codes. Businesses who want to seem hip, innovative or creative may prefer their staff to wear whatever they like and look individual and fashionable. Businesses who want to look relaxed and friendly but safe and family friendly may choose the dress codes that allow casual clothing, but not slogans on shirts or visible tattoos and piercings.
The office dress code has become a subtle way of encouraging staff to present themselves in a way that really represents the chosen brand personality of a business.
3. Dressing Socially
An interesting thing that has happened, as more and more businesses adopt dress codes that don’t restrict the wearer to a wardrobe of suits or smart clothing they designate for work and never wear anywhere else, is that ‘dressing down’ has actually become less casual at work.
While in offices with a weekly dress down day people tend to come to work in their slouchiest clothes on a Friday, just because they can, in offices with less rigid dress codes people actually tend to dress more fashionably and smarter than the dress code demands. This is because when they are free to wear what they like, they usually dress for the social interactions that will happen at work. Since they also don’t have to buy separate clothes just for work, they also tend to wear the clothes they most enjoy shopping for – they can spend more on a nice outfit from their favorite online boutique if they don’t need to buy suits or plain pants and shirts for every day of the week!
The right dress code policy for your workplace is really down to the mood you want to create, how public or client facing your workforce is, and your own preferences, however it is definitely worth giving it some thought, because the traditional business casual policy certainly seems to be on its way out!