We have seen a big shift in what is now accepted as business attire / workplace dress code. Many organisations had a more formal dress code for employees who worked within their offices, however, as a result of the pandemic and everyone working from home, we all got used to seeing our colleagues in woolly jumpers, t-shirts and definitely no ties!

Many businesses I speak to have said that they feel like a formal dress code is outdated and that they are encouraging their staff to wear clothes to make them feel comfortable as this will increase their productivity.

However, I have also spoken to a number of people who don’t feel like they are on their A game if they are sat there in jeans and jumper. They feel like they need to put on their “uniform” of a suit or more formal attire to be able to perform more effectively in their job.

I have seen an increase in “dressing for your audience” where businesses have allowed their teams to dress more casually, unless they have a meeting or customer to meet and then they would dress appropriately for that meeting. I know that I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing jeans and a t shirt into a meeting with a senior director or interviewing someone. I think it shows respect for the other person if you dress for who you are meeting.

There are still many that ask their staff to wear more formal office clothes even though their workplace is not customer facing. If your staff are sitting at their desk all day, is a dress code necessary anymore? Is now the time to allow people to express themselves with what they wear and how they look? In reality, has this got any bearing on their ability to do their job???????

 

I recently ran a poll on LinkedIn and asked my followers what their work dress code is now:

48% Smart / casual

29% Dress for their audience

14% Formal business attire

9% Anything goes.

 

I also asked them if they feel like it makes a difference what you wear when meeting customers or clients:

A hospitality business owner said “As someone who has worn formal attire for most of my working life, I find it difficult now to choose what I am going to wear and how to differentiate between audiences. From smart casual to formal, due to the variation of people / businesses I deal with.

If I turn up in a suit and tie to some businesses, they have the potential to think its too much. Its constantly challenging now, I much prefer the days when I knew what I had to wear.”

A finance professional said “I find it very difficult to dress down for work…. I really do find that dressing for the audience puts me in the right frame of mind for the business I am dealing with”.

A public sector employee said “I really worried about what I was going to wear to my first in-person meeting after working on MS Teams for a year. I decided to go for a suit and tie (a bit of normality), but I was the only person to have dressed for formally which made me feel uncomfortable and out of place.

Since then, I’ve had interviews where I dressed formally and my interviewers, we more dressed down.

Having weighed up the pros and cons, I’ve decided that dressing up to find everyone else has dressed down is better than turning up dressed more casual to a room full of suits.”

A HR Director said “For me it really depends on each client and the circumstances. For board meetings its formal, but if I’m delivering a team session it is likely to me more smart casual. The other aspect is individual preference. I like formal workwear and it’s my preference, but that doesn’t mean that I expect others to be the same.

Someone else said “I had absolutely no idea what to wear for business meetings once lockdown eased. I always wore a suit, but it seems everything is much more casual now and I like it. It’s nice to be smart and comfortable and to be able to show a little more of the real you through your clothes.”

Looking at the results of the poll and the comments received, I think that what is acceptable dress code has definitely changed, there is some confusion as nothing is written down.

If your business has changed its dress code, then think about what you may need to change in your contracts.

If you are arranging meetings, events or training sessions, maybe add a note about dress code within the email to help people feel more comfortable with what to wear.