It’s clear to see that employees dress differently in the office than they did many years ago. At one time, a nine-to-five job was synonymous with a three-piece suit and briefcase. But, now, many companies are happy to let their employees dress in business casual attire or what they feel comfortable in. Is it affecting productivity, though? CT Shirts, retailers of Charles Tyrwhitt men's suits take a further look.
A shift towards business casual
More younger people in the office is leading to a change in office dress. It seems as though this age group is more protective over identity and style of dress and are opposed to being told what to wear.
How can business casual be explained? It’s a style of dress that is smart but not overly professional. For a man, this might be shirt without a tie, navy trousers and loafers. For women it could be a smart blouse with cropped, tailored trousers and flat shoes.
During one study on work satisfaction, over one in ten people aged 18-24 said that they had considered quitting their job due to a strict dress code. Older employees, however, do not share the same strong views. Only 7% of those aged 55 and over said that they would think about leaving their employment because of the dress code. Compare this to 17% of 18-24s and it’s clear to see a divide. It might depend on which sector you operate in as to how your staff feel about uniform. Those working in the energy sector (32%), science and pharma sector (31%) and IT sector (29%) are most likely to leave their role due to dress code requirements, one study discovered.
Moving forward, should employees be scrapping their dress codes in a bid to retain staff? Quite possibly. Employers are aware of how high staff turnover can have great cost and productivity implications. Costs incur during the recruitment process as the position is advertised and time is spent by employers interviewing and selecting candidates. Having a dress code may deter candidates too — 61% of people looking for a new job in 2017 said that they’d have a negative perception of any company that enforced a dress code. Productivity also takes a hit, as often a current employee has to spend time training the new starter or letting them shadow their day-to-day activities — this can prevent existing workers from working to their maximum capacity.
More creative companies are popping up too, and this is also affecting how people dress to work. In fact, between 2010 and 2016, the creative industries sub sectors (i.e advertising, film and TV) grew their economic contribution by 44.8%. Dress code is often less strict in these companies, as employees are encouraged to express their ‘creative flair’.
Can the way that you dress change how you act?
"78 of respondents to one survey said that they would still make an effort to dress well and wouldnt blur the line between work clothes and non-work clothes if there werent any rules on what to "
There is research out there that has proven that what you wear can affect how you behave at work.
There was one experiment, for example, when were presented with a white coat and told different things. The participants that were told it was a doctor’s coat, felt more confident in accomplishing tasks compared to those that were told they were wearing a painter’s coat. Other research shows that wearing more formal clothing can make people think more broadly.
Of course, this is different for everyone. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, wears the same casual clothes every day and runs a company worth billions of dollars. He says that dressing in this way gives him one less decision to make and allows him to focus on more important workplace decisions.
And, the way that you dress can influence productivity levels. In fact, the majority of UK workers said that they would feel more productive and put more effort into their appearance if there wasn’t a strict dress code — this is according to a study by Stormline. Moreover, 78% of respondents to one survey said that they would still make an effort to dress well and wouldn’t blur the line between ‘work clothes’ and ‘non-work clothes’ if there weren’t any rules on what to wear.
What should bosses do?
It seems as though employees should certainly take the time to consider their uniform policy.
This can depend on the job role too. First impressions still, and most likely will, always count. If employees are in a client-facing role, it’s important to look professional and approachable — they are effectively representing the business and should be making it look good.
Bosses should certainly take the time to find out how their employees feel about dress codes. This could be the best indicator of whether a uniform is best for the business or not. As we’ve seen, uniforms can affect behaviour at work and it is down to the individuals as to whether they work best following, or not adhering to, a dress code.
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