Dress Code – 5 Tips for Successful Change

Dress Code – Going Casual?

Many workplaces seem to be getting more and more casual. A 2016 survey conducted by OfficeTeam (A Robert Half Company) found that “dressing up for work continues to go out of style”. Fifty percent of senior managers interviewed said employees wear less formal clothing than they did even five years ago. Thirty one percent of employees stated they would prefer to be at a company with a business casual dress code and 27 percent favor a casual dress code or no dress code at all. Considering Millennials, who seem to value a casual dress code and consider it a company perk, represent the largest percentage of the American workforce, it should come as no surprise that employers everywhere are reconsidering their organization’s attire standards.

If you are considering creating a more casual dress environment for your employees, here are 5 tips to ensure the change is successfully implemented.

1. Consider the impact to your brand identity.
Before you make a final decision about your dress code, consider how a change may impact your brand identity. What would your clients think if they popped into your office and witnessed employees in business casual or casual attire? Would it make a positive, neutral or negative impact? Would an office full of suits and ties seem too formal, stuffy or even intimidating? How your employees dress may impact how the outside world sees your brand and company – for better or for worse.

2. Define your dress code.
Once you’ve decided on a dress code, clearly define it for your employees. Everyone has different definitions of the various dress codes, so make sure you leave no room for ambiguity. Reference the four most common definitions of business dress codes below.

  • Business formal
    Requires a suit and tie for men and a tailored dress or a pantsuit for women. The idea is to wear something business appropriate that is also dressy.
  • Business casual
    Men may where slacks or chinos and a collared shirt while a blazer, or a pencil skirt and a blouse work best for women. No jeans or sneakers would be allowed.
  • Casual dressy
    This is a slightly dressier version of your most casual look. For women, dress up a pair of pants with a pair of ankle boots or add heels to elevate flared jeans and pair them with a button down shirt or sweater. Men may dress up their favorite pair of jeans with a blazer or a button down shirt.
  • Casual
    Anything goes in this case, including jeans and sneakers.

3. Set expectations and note exceptions.
In addition to defining your dress code, elaborate on expectations about specific appropriate and inappropriate attire. For example, you may be willing to allow a casual dress code, but will not allow employees to wear items of clothing with rips, tears or holes, like some popular brands of jeans found on the market today. You may not want to allow employees to go so casual as to wear yoga pants, sweatpants or casual flip flops. Include an extensive list of what is not allowed and try to be specific. Do you anticipate any exceptions to your dress code? There may be times when a more formal attire is deemed appropriate, such as during a formal work event or a meeting with a client. Perhaps mimicking the dress code of the event (i.e. black tie event) or that of the client company is what will be required of your employee. Indicate the company policies in these instances or include a general statement indicating there may be occasions when the dress code may differ. Try to give employees notification in advance when exceptions will occur. Additionally, you will want to end your policy with a statement like the sample below in order avoid any legal action. This will allow you some wiggle room to tackle situations on a case-by-case basis as needed when it comes to things like religious accommodations and other employment laws.

[Insert company name] provides equal employment opportunities to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetics. Accordingly, the company is committed to providing a workplace that is free from illegal harassment or a hostile work environment. Employees who have any questions about this policy are encouraged to speak with their manager and/or a representative from human resources.

4. Communicate the policy and ensure it is understood.
Include your dress code in your employee handbook or wherever you house and communicate your organization’s policies. Ensure every employee has read and understands the dress code including any consequences for not adhering to it. Always have employees sign a statement indicating they understand all of your company policies, including your dress code. Remember to include all expectations and any exceptions that you foresee.

5. Enforce the policy consistently.
Managers should be instructed to hold employees accountable for adhering to the dress code and know how to document instances when they do not. Ensure managers do so consistently for all direct reports. Allowing one employee to break the rules by wearing flip flops, yet writing up another for wearing ripped jeans will work against you should you need to give out consequences.


Tandem HR

If you are unsure how a change in company dress code may impact your organization or you need additional advice on the topic, contact Tandem HR today. Tandem HR is a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) or HR outsourcing company in the Chicagoland area that assists hundreds of small and mid-sized businesses with creating exceptional workplaces. They also help clients save time and money while growing their business by taking on the administrative tasks associated with human resources, benefits, payroll, tax administration, regulatory compliance and risk management.

Visit TandemHR.com or call 630.928.0510 for a free consultation.