Why your business might consider adopting a more casual dress code.

Earlier this year, financial giant Goldman Sachs announced plans to relax its dress code. As a company known for its corporate atmosphere, with bankers expected to be appropriately dressed in suits and ties, this change was unexpected. Traditionally, banks and financial organisations have been slow to adopt the same laid back approach to dress codes as some other, perhaps more creative, sectors.

When it comes to relaxing company dress codes, Goldman Sachs is not alone. Virgin Atlantic also recently changed its policy, so that female flight attendants no longer need to wear makeup and are now permitted to wear trousers. 

And, according to an employee benefits survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, roughly 50 per cent of companies currently have a casual dress code. This represents a six per cent increase from 2017 and an 18 per cent increase from 2014.

With companies increasingly adopting a casual dress code, we could be witnessing a shift in employee attitudes towards appearance and what is considered appropriate apparel. 

In fact, according to research by clothing brand Stormline, 61 per cent of people looking for a new job said they would have a negative perception of any company which enforced a dress code.

Meanwhile, the majority of UK workers admitted they would feel more productive and put more effort into their appearance if there was no dress code.

Seventy-eight per cent of respondents said that even without a code, they would still make an effort to dress well and make a clear distinction between ‘work clothes’ and ‘non-work clothes’.

However, many companies view employee appearance as a reflection of the company. According to conventional thinking, strict dress codes convey a sense of authority, responsibility and trustworthiness. Allowing employees to dress as they see fit also leaves room for ambiguity and could result in them wearing unprofessional attire. 

Casual dress code can seem a bit risky or unwise move. On the other hand, providing employees with more flexibility around what they wear does have some benefits and may be better suited for the modern workplace.

Adopting a more relaxed dress code can have some significant benefits for your business. It can make it appear more attractive to potential employees, promote gender equality, increase morale and even boost productivity. Here are some of the biggest advantages:

A better working environment

When it comes to attracting young, ambitious employees, a more relaxed dress code could make all the difference. As per the Stormline study, many employees want to work at companies that promote casual attire. In a world of dressing down at the likes of Google, Facebook and Innocent, other employers may wish to follow suit.  

Satisfied employees

Allowing staff members to choose what they wear to work not only shows that you trust your employees to dress appropriately but can also increase employee morale. This is because most people are generally happier in clothes that they feel comfortable in. If employees are not distracted by their clothing, they can focus on getting the utmost satisfaction from their work.

Companies with a casual dress code are also known for having a more positive work environment. A place where employees are trusted and staff well-being and performance is more important than their appearance.

Boosted productivity

Some experts argue that a casual dress code can increase employee productivity. Rather than being distracted by uncomfortable clothing or worrying about their appearance, employees can focus their energy on achieving great results, increasing productivity and taking their performance to the next level. 

More diversity

One of the biggest benefits of adopting a more casual dress code is promoting greater diversity. Strict dress codes often negatively impact minorities by fuelling stereotypes. For example, women, under strict dress codes, are often required to wear skirts, high heels and makeup while people of religious faiths sometimes cannot wear certain clothing items, like hijabs or crosses.

Strict dress codes can also prevent people from expressing themselves. Some companies do not allow employees to have unnatural hair colours, piercings or tattoos.

As a result, strict dress codes directly determine the people who feel comfortable working at your company and could severely restrict the diversity of your talent pool.

Here is the right approach to take if you are considering relaxing your company’s dress code:

Create a framework

The first step to relaxing your dress code is to determine any requirements and establish a policy. Once you have a good understanding of any company, brand and client requirements, you can create a rough framework for employee dress code. It is important to think about what is absolutely necessary and if any of your ideas about how employees should dress might reinforce stereotypes. Striking the right balance between company expectations and employee freedom and comfort is essential for creating a happy and productive work environment.

Keep your clients in mind

In most cases, the formality of a company’s dress code depends on the amount and type of interactions employees have with clients. It is vital that employees dress to meet clients’ expectations. For example, if employees have to provide clients with professional counsel, they may need to wear more formal clothes.

Consider your brand

Are there certain styles that represent your brand? If people expect your employees to be smart because your branding is, consider adhering to a relaxed dress code in the office but not when entering into meetings or off-site visits.