An increasing number of companies are implementing a more relaxed approach to their office dress code. Whether through the introduction of a "business casual" policy or simply ditching the rules altogether, the rigid mandates of "business formal" attire are becoming a thing of the past. But why the change? According to Reference for Business, "business casual" policies were first introduced in the information technology industries of the West Coast during the 1990s and gradually proliferated to organizations across the country. The trend started because young IT workers refused to adhere to the conventions of a traditional dress code, arguing that it stifled creativity and dampened morale.
"9 out of 10 employers now allow casual clothing at the office."
While ditching suits, ties and pant suits in favor of jeans and t-shirts was a radical move in the 1990s, it's the opposite story today. Casual clothing in the office has now become so common nationwide that a recent survey from Evans Research Associates found that a vast majority of human resources departments - some 9 out of 10 - now permit casual attire at work, CXO Today stated.
Given the rapid growth and expansion of such policies, it's clear that there are a number of benefits to introducing a more relaxed dress code - for both employers and employees alike. Here is a guide to five of the most compelling arguments in favor of dumping your "business formal" dress code:
1. It demonstrates flexibility
The term "employee engagement" has become a hot topic in the world of business and HR management. The abstract phrase refers to the importance of measuring employee satisfaction at work and the energy and enthusiasm with which an employee performs his or her job. A number of factors can impact employee engagement levels, but one of the most significant is the influence of higher management.
Many studies have indicated that employees respond better to a C-Suite that values flexibility in terms of working schedules, remote working, and of course, dress codes. Through the implementation of a casual dress code, employers are able to signal to their workforce that they are relaxed enough not to monitor or control what they wear. After all, according to Chron, many workers view rigid dress codes as a means to curtail freedom and individualism within the office. By introducing a more relaxed approach to clothing, employers will be able to demonstrate that they value the autonomy of their employees and recognize them as individuals.
2. It saves employees time and cash
One of the biggest anxieties associated with a strict office dress code for employees is selecting the right things to wear on a daily basis. This can be especially difficult for women, as they may not have the luxury of wearing a suit and tie everyday. Therefore, the introduction of a more laid-back dress code is particularly beneficial for workers in terms of saving time and money and reducing stress, SmartPros argued. Without strict guidelines, employees will be able to quickly select clothes that they are more comfortable wearing. The financial benefits are also obvious: After all, a new button down shirt and jeans will likely be considerably cheaper than a new suit.
3. Reduces the risk of legal trouble
While office dress codes are generally sanctioned by law, there are a number of ways in which a formal dress code could potentially lead to legal trouble for a company, particularly on the grounds of discrimination, HR Daily Advisor explained. Actions such as banning certain items of clothing or prohibiting growing beards could violate an employee's right to practice their religion, for example. Or having radically different dress codes for men and women could spell trouble for gender equality. In terms of staying on the right side of the law, imposing an office wide casual dress policy is arguably the wisest and safest move for HR teams.
4. Improves morale
Wearing casual clothing to work has a positive impact on morale at the office. This is because people tend to feel more relaxed and content in clothing that they're comfortable with, Inc. noted. And a more content workforce correlates with greater productivity and success.
5. It inspires creativity
In a similar vein to improving morale, introducing a relaxed dress code can actually help fuel creativity and innovation. This is because people tend to feel happier and less stressed in clothing that they're comfortable with, and with less stress comes an enhanced ability to think clearly and creatively. Indeed, CXO Today elaborated that Google is one of the leading companies that champions a philosophy of "being serious without a suit." Executives at the international giant have long asserted that a company should focus on the achievements of an employee, instead of what they're wearing.
Ultimately, the decision to implement a more casual dress code is one that is very personal, and should reflect the attitude and culture of the business itself. "While a casual dress code is not appropriate for every business setting, implementing these policies has undeniable benefits in certain circumstances," says Jennifer Patterson, Manager of Administration at Beacon Hill Staffing Group. "A dress code is a statement, to your employees and to your customers, on who you are as a business. An effective implementation reveals itself in how those two constituencies react, so it is important to strike a balance between them." If appropriate, allowing your employees the freedom to choose how they express themselves in their dress is one of many ways you can spark creativity and improve workplace culture.