Is your office ready for a casual dress code?

19 Aug

Many offices now allow staff to wear jeans.

Office attire has become increasingly casual over the years, but many companies are still unsure whether allowing jeans is the right step for them. While casual Fridays have been a norm for decades, many offices extend casual wear to the entire workweek. Of course, many human resources managers wonder, does the casual approach work for my office?

Casual attire continues to be a contentious issue in offices. Just as companies roll out casual dress codes, others go in the opposite direction. Financial services firm Barclays recently made the news when Executive Chairman John McFarlane sent out a memo banning jeans and flip flops at work, The Independent reported. Meanwhile, Adweek noted how the attire landscape at many prestigious digital firms leans toward casual.

Millennials drive the trend
Millennials, who continue to enter the workforce, could be part of the reason behind fewer suits and ties in the office. A 2012 study from MTV found that millennials prefer a casual dress code throughout the day. According to an article in MediaPost written by Nick Shore, former senior vice president of strategic insights and research at MTV, the researchers had baby boomers and millennials draw a picture of their dress codes at work and what they wear during leisure time. For millennials, the pictures were almost identical, while baby boomers showed a significant shift in their after-work attire.

Overall, the study found millennials were interested in a casual workplace. Almost 90 percent wanted their workplaces to be social and fun, while 93 percent desired a job where they can be themselves.

Benefits of casual dress
Since younger workers tend to be drawn to workplaces where they can act like themselves, it might be wise for companies to revisit old fashioned dress codes. To gain the most competitive talent in this group, workplaces may need to consider office culture, which is directly tied to dress.

However, even for older workers, casual attire can be seen as a great benefit. It demonstrates to staff that managers care about their morale, as well as implying an innovative and forward-thinking approach.

It's also important to consider what employees do with their time. If their role primarily involves interacting with internal staff rather than clients, there's little reason to require business attire.

The role of HR
Regardless of the dress code at individual workplaces, it's up to HR practitioners to draft the policy and communicate it to employees. Writing a policy can be tricky. HR needs to make sure the policy doesn't affect certain groups more than others, for instance, by race, gender or religion, according to HR Hero. In addition, when discrimination claims do arise, it is usually because the employer doesn't apply the rules consistently, making certain individuals feel singled out. Whenever HR institutes a new dress code policy, it's important to effectively communicate about what the change will mean. Then, be consistent when asking staff to adhere to it.

In cases like this, employee management software can help HR keep tabs on how staff feel about the new dress code and help HR managers deal with any issues that might arise.

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