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It appears that the smart dress code that has long been a staple of office life is dying out.
Workwear provider Simon Jersey recently carried out a study of 2,000 people and found:
• One in four workers label their employer’s dress code as “smart”
• Only 5% of respondents described their dress code as “very smart”
• 36% said their employer had introduced a “smart casual” workwear policy
• 15% said their company had gone completely casual
Some of the world’s most successful companies are leading the trend towards more casual clothes in the workplace, with Google known for its relaxed and quirky office culture, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously working in a hoodie.
But how does the casualisation of workwear affect job performance? Are businesses fomenting creativity by making their employees feel more relaxed, or are they catering to millennial whims at the expense of productivity and professionalism?
Simon Jersey, which provides uniforms to 50,000 businesses in the UK, has published a guide to help employees negotiate the dress code minefield. Helen Harker, their designer manager, says the trick is to match what you wear to your company and role:
“Recent trends have led to a more casual approach to the way people dress wherever they go. Companies are relaxing dress codes in a bid to follow suit and make sure their staff and customers are comfortable. What you wear has a big impact on how you feel, so ensuring that everyone is happy with how they look can help improve motivation.
“With that said, a casual approach isn’t right for every situation and what makes sense for a tech startup doesn’t necessarily make sense for a law firm.
“As a customer, doing business with someone who is well-dressed and takes pride in their appearance shows they have respect for you and builds trust they’ll do a good job. While wearing slippers at your desk is fine it certainly wouldn’t give the right impression in a meeting.
“We’re continuing to see demand for workplace attire at the smarter end of the spectrum. Essentially it all comes down to what’s appropriate for where you work and what you do.”
For Sean Mallon, CEO of Bizdaq, a startup offering an online marketplace for buying and selling businesses, one size doesn’t fit all:
“We found that the clothes you wear definitely affect creativity and productivity, and it can go both ways – no restrictions on clothing can lead to a drop in productivity as people feel “too” comfortable. Just like wearing smart clothes can lead to a change in attitude, wearing clothes you’d usually wear on a lazy day off can also promote the same attitude.
“I wouldn’t say formal dress codes are a thing of the past, though. If I was dealing with a bank manager, accountant or someone in a similar field, I wouldn’t appreciate someone who was wearing a tie-dye T-shirt and jogging bottoms! I believe some industries, particularly those that are business client-facing, still need to have a formal dress code, though more for their clients than their employees.”