According to SHRM, more companies than ever before are adopting less formal dress code policies in their workplace. About half of firms surveyed said they allow casual dress every day—which is up 18% since 2014. It is important for businesses to explain definitions and reasons for their dress codes in order to minimize employee resentment, prevent disruptions to productivity, and avoid legal trouble. Learn more about office dress code pros and cons and how your business can benefit from a clearly communicated policy.

Safety benefits of dress code

In some industries, there are excellent reasons why companies must enforce strict dress codes. Workers on a shop floor, for example, aren’t allowed to wear loose fitting clothes or jewelry for safety reasons. Many healthcare workers are required to wear long sleeves and pants. In cases where employee safety and insurance requirements are top of mind, it’s hard to argue against a dress code. However, the enforcement of a dress code in other instances like an office setting can become more complicated.

Is professional dress still a thing?

While software companies have famously embraced completely casual attire for years, a professional dress code policy was the expected norm for more traditional industries like banking and financial services. Professional dress including suits, ties, and tailored dresses exude confidence, competence, and success, and connote a sense of respect for customers and clients. However, in March of 2019, financial industry giant Goldman Sachs announced that it would allow for more “flexible” attire as workplace culture continues to shift to meet the demands of younger generations of workers.

Pros and cons of uniform

Uniforms at work can also have a positive effect on your workforce. Wearing a uniform shows team spirit, reinforces your brand, and makes employees easy to identify. For example, professional sports teams, the military, and food service workers are required to wear uniforms on the job. While it may not make sense for your office workers to wear a uniform to work every day, you could consider providing employees with a branded shirt or jacket to wear at certain times to promote unity or impress clients. The cons of wearing a uniform are similar to the general reasons against dress code policies in the office.

Reasons against dress code

Enforcing a dress code at work can actually cause resentment among your workers if they can’t express their creativity or uniqueness. In fact, research in the UK found that 61% of people looking for a job would have a negative perception of any company that enforced a dress code. A dress code that doesn’t accurately reflect your workforce requirements may even hamper productivity if the attire is uncomfortable or guidelines are too strict.

Why you need to define a dress code

The most successful firms define and clearly communicate their dress code policy to ensure success. Here are three best practices your business should follow when adopting a casual or relaxed dress code:

  1. Establish a clear policy.It’s all too easy to misinterpret what the terms business casual and smart casual really mean. Clearly define your company’s definition of these terms and include examples of acceptable and unacceptable attire. A well-defined dress code policy helps minimize employee stress about what to wear. Studies have also shown that employees feel more productive when allowed to wear casual attire in the workplace.

  2. Apply consistent standards.Your dress code policy must be consistent to avoid resentment, discrimination, and legal trouble. Avoid setting different standards for men and women such as allowing women to wear open-toed sandals but not men. Also make sure your policy does not enforce sex-based stereotypes such as requiring women to wear make-up at work.

  3. Explain your reasons.Be sure that your workforce understands the why behind your dress code policy. Whether it’s for safety, productivity, brand image, or other business reasons, make sure you provide continuing education about dress code guidelines.

Take care of your employees

Employees are a valuable asset to your business. Make sure you consider the views of your workforce when you craft your dress code policy. Asure Software’s HR as a Service is your fractional outsourced Human Resources department, emboldening you to keep up with the latest legislation, recruit new people, and manage all the administration that goes along with maximizing workforce potential.

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