There has been a buzz around the casual workplace dress code recently as more big businesses seem to be adopting the initiative. If you run or work for a startup, a casual dress code may be very familiar to you. However if you’re part of a more traditional firm, it may come as a shock that large corporate companies are now adopting this drastic trend. The reason behind this buzz is down to several factors. The competitive hiring market has led companies to look for more unconventional ways to attract employees. There is also the long-standing argument that women should not be required to wear high heels to work. No matter what the reason is that you choose to look at your company dress code, there are several factors to consider.

What is a Casual Dress Code?

This question can often be lost in translation and indeed differs from business to business. The dress code is often a reflection on the employer. If he or she states that the dress code is casual but is more commonly seen wearing a suit, employees may be more inclined to take a business casual approach. This can mean wearing suit trousers and a shirt but ditching the suit jacket and tie. However, if the dress code is listed as casual and the CEO regularly wears t-shirts and hoodies, it is likely that this will affect the view that the employees have on exactly how casual they can dress for work.

The level of commitment to this trend varies amongst businesses. It is common for tech startups to take onboard completely the casual dress code, meaning employees can often be seen strutting around in thongs or singlets. Another option for employers is to provide their employees with company logoed merchandise, for example, a t-shirt they can wear, however they wish. Other businesses have been a little more hesitant to go all in, like JP Morgan, who recently announced a relaxed policy which encourages business or weekend casual (rather than beach attire).

Employer Considerations for Dress Code

As an employer, it is important to consider the impact that a dress code can have on the operational side of your business. Is your company client facing? If so, it’s worth considering how a relaxed dress code would impact the client experience. Would your customers feel undervalued if your employees were perceived to be less professional? Or would they feel more at ease while your employees guide them through your service? As an employee, a good rule to go by is to dress suitable for the situation. If you have a professional client meeting scheduled for the day, dress more corporate. If you only have internal meetings on your agenda you may want to dress more comfortably.

If your pulse is set racing at the thought of letting your employees go wild with their dress code, you may want to consider creating a ‘no go’ list. A casual dress code can often cause confusion, especially with new employees, as everyone worries about unwritten rules. Rather than waiting for incidents to happen and you getting upset about it, set some absolute no go’s so that you and your employees are on the same page. For example, no thongs, no singlets, no spaghetti straps, no active wear (whichever you find offensive). With employees varying in age and backgrounds, it’s unreasonable to assume that what you find unacceptable for the workplace will be the case for everyone. Having a no go list is a good way to avoid awkward conversations.

Another way in which it can affect your business is during the recruitment process. If attracting candidates can sometimes be a struggle, or you want to put yourself ahead of your competitors then having a casual dress code can be used as a selling point. For younger, more inexperienced staff, entering the corporate world can come with a hefty price tag in the form of a tailored suit and smart shoes. Not having to worry about a visit to David Jones with their parents could be a huge factor in why they choose to work for your company. Higher quality, more experienced individuals you wish to hire may have endured decades of the formal, stiff dress code and would relish the opportunity to ditch the suit and throw on a pair of jeans. If you’re a startup looking to attract these candidates to add value to your services, this could be an essential tool used to help them understand startup culture and why they should take advantage of it.

Key Takeaways

By defining your dress code loosely, this demonstrates the level of trust you have in your employees. You wouldn’t tell your staff what to eat for lunch, and so it makes sense that you wouldn’t tell them what to choose from their wardrobe each morning.

Stephanie Higham

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