Is the best office dress code no office dress code?


In the modern office, the rights of the individual to personal expression are increasingly trumping company identity. But is a relaxed office dress code really the key to a happier and more productive workplace?

Candace Bushnell, the author of Sex and the City, pens her novels while wearing silk pyjamas in her living room. In Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs’ now iconic daily uniform of a black turtleneck paved the way for the millennial tech CEOs of today, whose sneaker-and-hoodie office dress code screams success rather than slacker.

For most of us, our work attire sits somewhere on the jeans-and-blazer spectrum. But it’s likely that we’ve all – at some point – harboured fantasies of rolling straight out of bed and into the office, resplendent in a baggy grey t-shirt and drawstring pants.

Today, as more modern workplaces embrace individual self-expression, from religious dress to tattoos, I wonder: Are we witnessing the end of the office dress code?

At PricewaterhouseCoopers, a decision made earlier this year certainly nudges the societal weather vane closer towards this outcome. In June, the top-end firm abandoned its ‘modern professional’ dress code, replacing it with … nothing.

That’s right. In place of a new set of guidelines, the company now simply leaves it to employees to use their best judgement and wear what works best for them, while also being respectful and appropriately attired to meet clients and colleagues.

This contrasts noticeably with an incident at the same company’s office in the UK, where Nicola Thorp, a temp receptionist, was sent home after refusing to wear heels. It drew a lot of negative publicity for PwC and prompted widespread discussion about the purview of employers in enforcing gender specific or objectively oppressive dress codes on their workers.

Sue Horlin, PwC’s new human capital leader in Australia, explained to Business Insider that they believe their change in policy will give them an edge in the war for talent, stating “we want the same creative, innovative and diverse people that all the other companies are chasing.”

For HR professionals like Horlin, it’s a topic that treads a fine line between hot-button issues of gender equality in the workplace, and policies that ensure a company presents a unified and professional front to the world

“There has been a dramatic change very recently,” says Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University. “We are moving into an era where personal expression is going to trump the desire to create a corporate identity.”

But does a more casual approach to work dress, championed at places like Google, actually lead to more productive workplace environments?

A 2015 study at California State University found the opposite is true. Wearing more formal clothes “encourages people to use abstract processing more readily than concrete processing,” according to their findings. In layman’s terms, there is evidence to suggest that dressing professionally helps us behave more professionally too.

So what are your thoughts? Has your workplace considered an office dress code policy change? And if so, how has it effected your office?

To put things in perspective, here’s what the HRMonline team wore to work today:

HRMonline office dress code

As you can see, we’re a pretty casual crowd.

 

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Christine Liew
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Christine Liew

I think this is a hot topic amongst the recruiters who see the good, the bad and the ugly dress code of all generations. I think if you are in a client facing role, you should dress to impress your audience – whether that’d be hoodie or a crisp white collar. Unfortunately, we still very much live in a society where we are all judged based on our appearance so I think the concept of having a dress code will unfortunately be here to stay for many of us who work to impress others. Also what is acceptable to one… Read more »

Jennifer Howe
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Jennifer Howe

The way people dress in the office impacts the culture. There is no “right” place in the spectrum from jeans to suit, but most people will notice what other wear and move more to the norm over time. The organisation needs to be clear on the culture it wants to have, whether it be high end corporate, Silicon valley creative and casual, or something else. Dress codes don’t need to be written, but certainly are recognised through the “unwritten ground rules” (to use Steve Simpson’s term), often by the way leaders and influences dress.

Mark Wiggins
Guest
Mark Wiggins

A very interesting topic and the old adage that “clothes do not maketh the man” (apologies as it is not PC) comes to mind. I agree that given the freedom to make their own choice, engaged staff will wear what is appropriate to their role, as I am certain we have all experienced quite poor service from corporately attired & designer crafted bank staff. I personally aim to be dressed business casual unless I am representing the business I work for at a professional function where I will drag out a suit but no tie. Staff who are even partly… Read more »

WAYNE LYONS
Guest
WAYNE LYONS

I have my own business and I am also a member of a ride-sharing company and I still dress in a shirt and tie in both environments. I feel it projects an image of ‘professionalism’ to clients. As a driver I always dress in shirt and tie (we are not compelled to) and receive many compliments that it looks very professional compared to other drivers. I guess old habits die hard for me, I started my career wearing a shirt and tie and have never changed.

Ralph Jackson
Guest
Ralph Jackson

We have a dress code and we are currently reviewing it. It is an interesting idea throwing into the mix the option of not having a dress code at all. We have offices all around the country and in each office you can certainly experience different dress standards, although to the letter of the dress code they all comply. We also have section in the dress code that outlines what is acceptable on ‘Casual Fridays’. I agree with the comment made earlier about dressing for your clients. I have worked in a number of industries over the years, working with… Read more »

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More on HRM

Is the best office dress code no office dress code?


In the modern office, the rights of the individual to personal expression are increasingly trumping company identity. But is a relaxed office dress code really the key to a happier and more productive workplace?

Candace Bushnell, the author of Sex and the City, pens her novels while wearing silk pyjamas in her living room. In Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs’ now iconic daily uniform of a black turtleneck paved the way for the millennial tech CEOs of today, whose sneaker-and-hoodie office dress code screams success rather than slacker.

For most of us, our work attire sits somewhere on the jeans-and-blazer spectrum. But it’s likely that we’ve all – at some point – harboured fantasies of rolling straight out of bed and into the office, resplendent in a baggy grey t-shirt and drawstring pants.

Today, as more modern workplaces embrace individual self-expression, from religious dress to tattoos, I wonder: Are we witnessing the end of the office dress code?

At PricewaterhouseCoopers, a decision made earlier this year certainly nudges the societal weather vane closer towards this outcome. In June, the top-end firm abandoned its ‘modern professional’ dress code, replacing it with … nothing.

That’s right. In place of a new set of guidelines, the company now simply leaves it to employees to use their best judgement and wear what works best for them, while also being respectful and appropriately attired to meet clients and colleagues.

This contrasts noticeably with an incident at the same company’s office in the UK, where Nicola Thorp, a temp receptionist, was sent home after refusing to wear heels. It drew a lot of negative publicity for PwC and prompted widespread discussion about the purview of employers in enforcing gender specific or objectively oppressive dress codes on their workers.

Sue Horlin, PwC’s new human capital leader in Australia, explained to Business Insider that they believe their change in policy will give them an edge in the war for talent, stating “we want the same creative, innovative and diverse people that all the other companies are chasing.”

For HR professionals like Horlin, it’s a topic that treads a fine line between hot-button issues of gender equality in the workplace, and policies that ensure a company presents a unified and professional front to the world

“There has been a dramatic change very recently,” says Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University. “We are moving into an era where personal expression is going to trump the desire to create a corporate identity.”

But does a more casual approach to work dress, championed at places like Google, actually lead to more productive workplace environments?

A 2015 study at California State University found the opposite is true. Wearing more formal clothes “encourages people to use abstract processing more readily than concrete processing,” according to their findings. In layman’s terms, there is evidence to suggest that dressing professionally helps us behave more professionally too.

So what are your thoughts? Has your workplace considered an office dress code policy change? And if so, how has it effected your office?

To put things in perspective, here’s what the HRMonline team wore to work today:

HRMonline office dress code

As you can see, we’re a pretty casual crowd.

 

15
Leave a reply

avatar
100000
  Subscribe to receive comments  
Notify me of
Christine Liew
Guest
Christine Liew

I think this is a hot topic amongst the recruiters who see the good, the bad and the ugly dress code of all generations. I think if you are in a client facing role, you should dress to impress your audience – whether that’d be hoodie or a crisp white collar. Unfortunately, we still very much live in a society where we are all judged based on our appearance so I think the concept of having a dress code will unfortunately be here to stay for many of us who work to impress others. Also what is acceptable to one… Read more »

Jennifer Howe
Guest
Jennifer Howe

The way people dress in the office impacts the culture. There is no “right” place in the spectrum from jeans to suit, but most people will notice what other wear and move more to the norm over time. The organisation needs to be clear on the culture it wants to have, whether it be high end corporate, Silicon valley creative and casual, or something else. Dress codes don’t need to be written, but certainly are recognised through the “unwritten ground rules” (to use Steve Simpson’s term), often by the way leaders and influences dress.

Mark Wiggins
Guest
Mark Wiggins

A very interesting topic and the old adage that “clothes do not maketh the man” (apologies as it is not PC) comes to mind. I agree that given the freedom to make their own choice, engaged staff will wear what is appropriate to their role, as I am certain we have all experienced quite poor service from corporately attired & designer crafted bank staff. I personally aim to be dressed business casual unless I am representing the business I work for at a professional function where I will drag out a suit but no tie. Staff who are even partly… Read more »

WAYNE LYONS
Guest
WAYNE LYONS

I have my own business and I am also a member of a ride-sharing company and I still dress in a shirt and tie in both environments. I feel it projects an image of ‘professionalism’ to clients. As a driver I always dress in shirt and tie (we are not compelled to) and receive many compliments that it looks very professional compared to other drivers. I guess old habits die hard for me, I started my career wearing a shirt and tie and have never changed.

Ralph Jackson
Guest
Ralph Jackson

We have a dress code and we are currently reviewing it. It is an interesting idea throwing into the mix the option of not having a dress code at all. We have offices all around the country and in each office you can certainly experience different dress standards, although to the letter of the dress code they all comply. We also have section in the dress code that outlines what is acceptable on ‘Casual Fridays’. I agree with the comment made earlier about dressing for your clients. I have worked in a number of industries over the years, working with… Read more »

1 2 3
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