Just a decade ago, office dress codes brought to mind suits and ties, high-necked blouses and high-cut skirts. Times have changed, though. Employees no longer want to feel like they’re going to a formal event when they’re heading to work.
They want to be comfortable. They want to be able to wear clothes that they aren’t rushing to get out of the moment the end of the day rolls around. And they know full well that it’s possible to dress that way without sacrificing the vaunted professionalism that so many workplaces prize.
The end result is that the traditional corporate dress code is obsolete. With a few rare exceptions, people are pushing back at employers that expect them to don a suit and tie in the office. For example, according to a recent survey by employment and recruitment agency Randstad US, one in three employees would either quit their job or turn down a job offer if they were forced to follow a conservative dress code.
It’s a telling statistic that speaks to a trend that’s understood even by major corporations like Goldman Sachs. What’s more, in the Randstad survey, 79 percent of respondents also indicated that their workplace’s current dress code can best be described as either “casual” or “business casual.” In short, if you’re still trying to force a formal dress code on your employees, you’re behind the times.
But what does business casual mean, exactly? How can you establish professionalism in the workplace without either veering too far into unprofessionalism or defeating the purpose of keeping things casual in the first place? By avoiding the idea of a dress code.
Simply speak to your employees and let them know that they should try to dress professionally when they come to work. You might suggest a few articles of clothing they might sport or colors they might wear. Beyond that, however, we’d advise simply trusting that they’ll keep your business’s best interests at heart, dressing in a way that meshes with your corporate culture.
Sure, there’ll be a few people who try to stretch the limits of acceptable office attire. You can deal with them on a case-by-case basis. In the meantime, the gains you’ll see to both productivity and overall positivity will be well worth a few minor stumbling points.