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Are Dress Codes Necessary?

October 25, 2019

By Anthony Kaylin, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE 

Likely yes, but the question is to what extent should it control the clothes worn to work.  A new study by Randstad said 33% of employees responding would not only leave their job if they were required to follow a conservative dress code, but they would also forgo a $5,000 salary bump to be able to dress casually. 

38% of millennials (25-35 years old) have been told that their clothing needs to be more professional by a manager or HR; however, the majority (63%) of millennials say they prefer dressing up for work as it boosts their confidence and performance.  Only 51% of older workers agree with that latter view.

“There’s an interesting disconnect around younger workers: most associate dressing up with more confidence and better work performance, but nearly 40% also report they’ve had a manager speak to them about dressing more professionally,” said Traci Fiatte, CEO, non-technical staffing, Randstad U.S. “The bottom line is, as long as employees dress in a way that’s consistent with their employer’s policies, most managers care less about what their employees wear than about their performance and work output.”

For job interviews, 65% said it’s important to wear a suit, regardless of an employer’s dress code, and 42% said they’d rather be 20 minutes late to an interview than arrive looking underdressed or disheveled.  But for video interviews, respondents report “cheating.”  Half stated that they would dress conservatively from the waist up and casually from the waist down.  74% of men surveyed own a suit, compared to 45% of women.

Clothes consciousness is a serious concern for some.  40% of millennials would rather spill coffee on themselves before a big meeting than show up wearing the same outfit as their boss.

“The nature of work — where, when, and how it gets done — has changed dramatically over the past several years, and many of those changes (open offices, remote work) have ultimately contributed to a less formal workplace,” Fiatte stated. “It’s great to empower your employees to dress for their day, as well as show their personality, but it is equally important for employers to set some clear guidelines to ensure that everyone feels comfortable.”

What clothing was considered good or bad?  Ripped jeans (73%) and leggings (56%) were considered too casual. High heels that are above three inches and open-toed shoes were both described as unprofessional by 50% and 40% of those surveyed, respectively.  28% of all respondents say someone else’s clothing at work has made them feel uncomfortable because it was too revealing, but many have a difficult telling a coworker that the clothing was too revealing.

What to wear also depends on temperature maintenance in the facility.  Over half (58%) of women say they’ve had to bring a sweater or blanket to work because of their cold office, compared to just 30% of men. 

In a 2017 survey by Office Team, 56% of employees surveyed said they prefer to wear more relaxed work attire, and four in 10 (41%) admitted they’re at least sometimes unsure about whether clothing is office-appropriate. Nearly half (48%) would choose to eliminate uncertainty altogether by donning a uniform.  The survey also found that the younger workers tend to want a formal dress code.  Per the survey, those ages 18 to 34 (56%) have the greatest preference for formal dress codes.

Overall, with either survey, casual dress codes are preferred.  However, in crafting a dress code policy, it may be prudent to draft it collaboratively, inviting a team of workers to discuss and prepare the policy.  If the employees own it, they are most likely to follow and enforce it.

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