For or against: Should businesses have a dress code in the workplace? Wendy Mak, an author, blogger and stylist, and Alan Sparks, the chief executive officer at Cellnet Group, discuss.
Wendy Mak: Yes
Businesses all over the world spend a huge amount of time and effort at creating their brand – and sometimes all it takes is a handful of inappropriately dressed employees to undo that hard work.
The bottom line is employees are a representation of the business. So it makes sense that a company would like their employees to contribute positively to the reputation of the business – and having professional looking employees is a huge factor.
While the majority of people probably get it right, it’s the handful that don’t which makes it necessary for an organisation to introduce a dress code. The fact is, terms such as ‘smart business wear’ or ‘casual Friday’ are open to vast interpretation, so it is helpful to provide boundaries as to what is meant by those terms.
I’ve been called in to numerous organisations, large and small, to coach their teams on appropriate work attire because some employees just push the envelope a little too far, from wearing Ugg boots in a corporate workplace, to peek-a-boo bras and the overly casual.
For dress codes to work, you can’t get too rigorous or dictate every detail. In other words, be careful not to take it too far when it comes to restrictions, but state the minimum standard of dress that is expected. It is important to be clear about what is not acceptable and how that links back to your company brand.
Ultimately, this is about ensuring a consistent representation of your brand and image in the market.
Alan Sparks: No
The way that people dress in a workplace says a huge amount about the culture, the ethos and ultimately, the personality of a company. It is often said, ‘One should dress for the job you want rather than the one you have’. The same can be said for an organisation. Your company should dress for the brand perception and the clients that you want to attract. Most importantly, business leaders should encourage their workers to dress in a way that makes them more productive, alert and focused on achieving professional success. This means that some businesses should be prepared to relax their attitudes towards corporate dress codes.
Steve Jobs, for example, is proof that not all successful, creative and innovative people wear tailored trousers.
As new generations enter the office and social media facilitates integration of our social and working lives, companies with casual dress codes are increasingly seen as fresh, youthful and approachable by audiences.
With agile and mobile workspaces becoming the norm, flexible companies that encourage workers to think creatively can reap rewards in productivity. Irrespective of the industry, some staff will feel more creative and be more productive wearing jeans.
Studies on the influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes have shown that what you wear has an impact on your mood and behaviour. To foster and celebrate achievement, it may be time to consider leaving those power suits in the closet.
This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the May 2015 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘For or against?’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here.