Office dress codes
Does casual attire unite or divide your office? Our experts vary on whether a professional look is necessary for a professional workplace.
Shorts are part of the professional dress code at Roepke Public Relations in Minneapolis. (Sara Glassman/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)
"There's a difference between casual and sloppy," says Sally Morrison, associate manager of Career Partners 3, a job search and career coaching firm. "It's surprising to me what some people think is appropriate."
"I think that when you allow casual dress, some people start to be more casual in the way they approach their work," says Morrison. "I'm not saying people have to keep their jackets on all day long, but there's a level of professionalism that comes with wearing the appropriate attire. It garners more respect. If you are dealing with clients, I think this is very important."
So important that Morrison's office doesn't allow casual Friday.
"If you do it one day a week, then people might get relaxed about the other days," she explains. "It's just not something we think is appropriate with our work environment."
But if you don't have clients coming in and out of your doors, it might be worth ditching the suits to give your company morale a boost.
"Our entire office just switched from business casual to casual for our dress code," says Amelia Forczak of HR Solutions Inc., a Chicago-based International human resources pollster. "When people are free to wear what they choose it's a benefit, and the absence of a dress code signifies that workers are trusted to dress as they feel appropriate. This is empowering to the employee and can improve the efficiency of your staff."
According to a 2011 HR Solutions study, only 27 percent of employees are actively engaged. The remaining 73 percent is divided between being "ambivalent" (60 percent) and "actively disengaged" (13 percent). Another poll conducted in May of 2010 asked if workers have a traditional dress code. 55 percent said they did not have a code, while 44 percent were putting on suits and ties.
"It's key to know what's important to your workers to ensure you are getting productivity," says Forczak. "We do internal surveys at our office and after a recent survey, we found that being able to dress casually everyday instead of just on Fridays was a top priority, so we made the switch."
Forczak says the wardrobe change is what they call a "quick win"—a change in protocol that isn't difficult to implement and creates instant results within the work environment.
"If you don't deal with clients every day and wearing a suit won't change the way your workers do their jobs, why not make the workers feel the most comfortable?" says Forczak. "It's always a good thing in leadership to keep up a rapport with your employees. We find this is a great way to do this."
Should the employers or the employees make the wardrobe guidelines? Let us know!