Do Dress Codes Make Workers More Productive?

Do Dress Codes Make Workers More Productive?

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The ultimate business attire continues to be marketed as the classic suit-and-tie, yet today, many companies are questioning the extent to which classic looks still apply in offices. The new millennium is an age of mobility, remote working, and a quest for meaning on the part of employees. Form is giving way to function, and this applies to appearance as much as to key procedures. According to a study by Stormline, 61% of people feel more productive when the dress code is relaxed. Moreover, 78% said that even if their company did not impose a dress code, they would know perfectly well how to distinguish between professional and non-professional attire.

Two women looking at a laptop wearing smart suits
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The ultimate business attire continues to be marketed as the classic suit-and-tie, yet today, many companies are questioning the extent to which classic looks still apply in offices. The new millennium is an age of mobility, remote working, and a quest for meaning on the part of employees. Form is giving way to function, and this applies to appearance as much as to key procedures. According to a study by Stormline, 61% of people feel more productive when the dress code is relaxed. Moreover, 78% said that even if their company did not impose a dress code, they would know perfectly well how to distinguish between professional and non-professional attire.

What You Wear Still Matters

Appearance does matter; numerous studies have shown that first impressions are key, both in business and in one’s personal life. A study published in the journal SAGE found that people are “influenced by outward appearances even after interacting with a person face-to-face.” Moreover, people take just seconds to make a decision on who (or how professional) you are. The Stormline study actually showed that 68% of respondents said they were more likely to trust a well-dressed employee to do a job effectively than someone who didn’t bother dressing up, but that individual style and formality had little or nothing to do with effectiveness. An even larger majority felt that quality of attire was more important than complying with a potentially irrelevant dress code.

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Can Dress Codes Be Discriminatory?

Style is a personal matter that can clash with company dress codes. Fashionable employees will often choose shawls, designer accessories, and even eye wear to make a statement about their love for design. Dress codes that establish strict suit-and-tie-type garb can clash with personal tastes. They can also, it seems, be discriminatory. Both men and women surveyed, for instance, felt (with a clear majority) that workplace dress codes were discriminatory to the opposite sex. Thus, the old business suit for men and shirt, skirt and jacket for women, can interfere with comfort, and can seem a little outdated in an era in which equality continues to be highly valued and sought-after by job seekers.

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Workplace Dress Codes As A Barrier For Disabled Workers

Human resources professionals who impose dress codes should also consider their effect on disabled employees. Research undertaken in 2018 by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that people living with disabilities encounter obstacles in workplace participation – one of which is the lack of appropriate clothing items. These employees, said researchers, “want clothing that makes them feel confident. Unfortunately, the apparel industry has yet to sufficiently meet the demand for this population.” HR professionals should therefore take this consideration into account, analysing the extent to which imposed dress codes can make working life more difficult for workers in the company with disabilities.

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Younger generations are seeking freedom and diversity in their offices, and this means less strict dress codes. Far from promoting better performance, dress codes that are exceedingly specific can interfere with a worker’s perception of their own effectiveness. Most workers have a good idea between workplace and leisure attire, which suggests that a general dress code is more appropriate in the new millennium than a strict one.

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