How To Choose An Office Dress Code Policy

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For many companies, the days of having to wear a suit-and-tie to work are over. Across the United States, workplaces have embraced a more casual dress code policy and in many companies. A 2018 study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management found that while 50% of workplaces allow their employees to dress casually, 62% allow them to “dress down” once a week.

Though a casual office dress code policy is becoming increasingly popular, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for your office. While some companies thrive when everyone is wearing T-shirts and jeans, others do better when everyone is dressed more formally.

What works best for another company may not be what works best for yours. This article will give you some guidance on choosing the right dress code policy for your workplace.

Things To Consider When Choosing A Dress Code Policy

Ultimately, your office dress code policy should reflect your company’s values and culture. You should consider not only the needs of your employees but also what prospective colleagues will think of your workplace. These are a few tips for choosing a policy that works for your company.

1. Do You Want To Appeal To Generation Z and Millennials?

There’s a correlation between the rise of casual dress codes with an overall increase of young people in the workplace. The Pew Research Center found that millennials make up the biggest chunk of the workforce.

Millennials, however, have a habit for changing jobs. Their high turnover rate annually takes out $30.5 billion from the American economy. Though reducing retention is an ambiguous task, adjusting your culture can help. Research has shown that millennials value flexibility at work.

Last March, Goldman Sachs transitioned to a business casual dress code policy—a move that was seen as a way to keep up with this demographic shift.

2. Will Your Clients Care?

Even though many of us have been told not to judge a book by its cover, in reality, most of us do. Appearances matter, and you need to consider what your clients expect from a workplace.

Multiple studies have shown that even in the 2010s, business attire generally signifies success. If your clients are older and more conservative, a more relaxed dress code could be interpreted as a lack of professionalism. However, this could also be the opposite case. 64% of consumers want a brand that shares their values. A casual dress policy could be beneficial if your customer base is younger and subsequently more liberal.

3. How Will You Enforce It?

If you do decide to have a dress code, enforcing it can get tricky. In recent years, there’s been a growing backlash to workplaces that heavily surveil their employees. By having a dress code policy, you are adding another standard that your colleagues have to abide by on a daily basis. It’s best to be transparent from the get-go. One survey found that 46% of job-seekers cite a lack of leadership transparency at their current workplace as the reason why they want to leave.

As an office manager, you  should take a proactive approach to enforcing your dress code. During your onboarding process, you should explain to your new colleagues the dress code. In addition, you should articulate the dress code in your employee handbook and state what the specific repercussions will be if the standards are violated.

Different Types of Office Dress Codes

Although every workplace is unique, dress codes broadly have similarities. These are the different types of office dress codes and the standards for men and women.

1. Boardroom Attire

Also known as business formal, boardroom attire is regarded as the most traditional standard for dress code. This dress code is popular amongst law offices, more conservative financial institutions, and many government jobs.  

Women:

  • Neutral colors for all clothing and accessories
  • Long skirts (doesn’t go much higher than your knees)
  • Pantsuits
  • No distracting jewelry
  • Heels

Men:

  • Neutral colors
  • White button-ups
  • Ties
  • Black, brown, or dark blue formal shoes
  • Tailored suits

2. Less Formal Business Attire

Some workplaces desire a happy medium between formal and casual. This has been dubbed “business casual” and is ideal for companies that want to give their employees more flexibility but are also concerned that they will alienate potential clients if things get too casual. “Business casual” is best for education jobs and more relaxed financial companies.

Women:

  • Khaki pants
  • Slacks
  • Sweaters
  • Collared shirts
  • Flats
  • Closed-toe heels

Men:

  • Long-sleeve button downs shirts
  • Slacks
  • Dress pants
  • Khakis
  • Professional shoes

3. Casual Dress Code

A casual dress code is a defining feature of millennial-lead companies. In companies like Facebook, even the CEOs show up to work wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Startups, creative agencies, and entertainment industry workplaces tend to favor a casual dress code policy.

However, just because you have a relaxed standard, doesn’t mean that all rules should go out the window. Your colleagues should still dress to impress and not show up to work wearing pajamas or sweats.

Women:

  • Neutral or bold colors
  • Open-toe shoes
  • Blouses
  • Skirts (not too short)
  • Jeans (in some workplaces)

Men:

  • Neutral or bold colors
  • Sneakers, open-toe shoes (no flip-fops)
  • Crew-neck sweaters
  • Pullovers
  • T-shirts
  • Collared shirts
  • Casual trousers

4. Casual Fridays

Some companies allow their employees to dress casually once a week on Fridays. Since there’s no objective definition of ‘casual,’ you should inform your colleagues what is and isn’t allowed. In addition to casual Fridays, you can have a more relaxed dress code during holidays or other special occasions.

Seek Feedback and Be Open-Minded

Just because your workplace has been abiding by a certain dress code for years doesn’t mean that the existing policy shouldn’t be changed. As workplaces become more millennial-friendly, companies will surely have to become more flexible.

Get feedback from your colleagues about whether or not the current dress code policy is working for them. If it isn’t, you should be open-minded to new possibilities and find a policy that fits your office.

Are you interested in making your workplace more efficient? Check out what Eden’s Workplace Management Platform can do for your office.