July 13, 2024

Should smart office wear be enforced?

  • May 3, 2024
  • 4 min read
Should smart office wear be enforced?

It’s fair to say that we have become pretty lazy when it comes to dressing up. The pandemic didn’t help. Months of enforced confinement in our homes took away the need to dress up and look smart – at least on the bottom half! Joggers and a smart top were more than sufficient for an important meeting. Otherwise, the rest of the time involved comfortable leisure wear.

As offices have opened up, a common conversation is how standards have potentially slipped in terms of how people feel they need to dress for the office. Big tech companies haven’t helped, encouraging a more relaxed approach to office attire.

But does sloppiness in dress lead to sloppiness in work?

The studies show a real conflict in impact. While some highlight how rates of arriving late, or not arriving at all, have increased in organisations that have implemented dress down policies, other studies indicate that managers believe returning to stricter dress protocols would negatively impact productivity. The truth is that there is no clear, empirical evidence that can be related back to earnings or stock values, and that each company needs to make their own assessments.

What are the pros of implementing a smarter dress code?

There is a pride to dressing smart, and in many ways it is akin to putting on a work ‘persona’ which separates the professional persona from the relaxed at home persona. Even when working from home, many people reported that they couldn’t settle into a work rhythm until they had actually dressed for work. This mindset shift is a simple but effective hack for someone to gear into productivity even in an environment which is far from the office.

Consequently, when in the office, dressing accordingly immediately instils that image and energy of professionalism and focus, which in itself is a precursor to heightened productivity.

It can also encourage a more cohesive element of teamwork. In the same way that uniforms in school nurture a certain ‘levelling’ across the board, emboldening some of the less confident pupils to speak up in a more democratic environment, so too in businesses, where accepted office attire places everyone at the same level working towards a common goal.

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What are the cons of implementing a smarter dress code?

There’s a reason why your typical law firm is suited and booted, and your typical marketing firm is more casually dressed – and that is the element of creativity. Many companies by their very nature position themselves as free thinkers, arbiters of the creative process whereby the creators want nothing that could restrict and stifle that flow of creativity.

There is a freedom to creativity that eschews restriction. Being told what to wear could actually lead to resentment and a decrease in morale, which in turn leads to a drop in job satisfaction. Creatives want to be judged on the results of their efforts, rather than how well they can knot a tie.

Worrying too much about superficiality can detract from the inherent quality and meaning of the work that is done, and giving employees the freedom to express themselves sartorially will in turn give them the space to dig deeper into brilliant work.

Ultimately a company needs to make its own stance on the standard of dress by its employees. If a smart suit and cufflinks can make the difference between retaining a high paying client or not, then your employee will know that they have to comply. And if it has a positive impact on their own career, then it really is a no brainer.

If you need to start enforcing standards, then maybe you don’t have the right people in your workforce.

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