Office Dress Code For Productivity: Formal vs Casual

Office dress code has undoubtedly changed over time — but what does it look like now? At one time, a nine-to-five job was synonymous with a three-piece suit and briefcase. But, now, many companies are happy to let their employees dress in business casual attire or what they feel comfortable in. Is it affecting productivity, though?


Business casual

It’s believed that the younger generation has influenced the transition to casual-wear at work. It seems as though this age group is more protective over identity and style of dress and are opposed to being told what to wear.

Business casual is simply dressing smart but not looking overly professional.   For a man, this might be a men’s formal shirt without a tie, navy trousers and loafers. For women it could be a smart blouse with cropped, tailored trousers and flat shoes.

However, dress codes at work can impact more people thank you think — with one in ten 18-24 year olds saying they have thought about quitting because of a strict one. Older employees, however, do not share the same strong views. Only 7% of those aged 55 and over said that they would think about leaving their employment because of the dress code. Compare this to 17% of 18-24s and it’s clear to see a divide. It might depend on which sector you operate in as to how your staff feel about uniform. Those working in the energy sector (32%), science and pharma sector (31%) and IT sector (29%) are most likely to leave their role due to dress code requirements, one study discovered.

Staff retention is vital — so should businesses be reconsidering having a dress code? Quite possibly. Employers are aware of how high staff turnover can have great cost and productivity implications. Costs incur during the recruitment process as the position is advertised and time is spent by employers interviewing and selecting candidates. Having a dress code may deter candidates too — 61% of people looking for a new job in 2017 said that they’d have a negative perception of any company that enforced a dress code. Productivity also takes a hit, as often a current employee has to spend time training the new starter or letting them shadow their day-to-day activities — this can prevent existing workers from working to their maximum capacity.

With more creative companies, more businesses are allowing their workers to dress more casually. In fact, between 2010 and 2016, the creative industries sub sectors (i.e advertising, film and TV) grew their economic contribution by 44.8%. Dress code is often less strict in these companies, as employees are encouraged to express their ‘creative flair’.


How your attire can influence performance

Studies have found out that the way you dress in the workplace can influence your behaviour.

One experiment presented subjects with a white coat. The participants that were told it was a doctor’s coat, felt more confident in accomplishing tasks compared to those that were told they were wearing a painter’s coat. Other research shows that wearing more formal clothing (such as a tuxedos) can make people think more broadly.

However, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wears the same casual clothes on a daily basis and runs a company worth over a billion dollars. He says that dressing in this way gives him one less decision to make and allows him to focus on more important workplace decisions.

Research from Stormline has suggested that the majority of the UK’s workforce would feel more productive if their dress code was laxer. Moreover, 78% of respondents to one survey said that they would still make an effort to dress well and wouldn’t blur the line between ‘work clothes’ and ‘non-work clothes’ if there weren’t any rules on what to wear.


The big business decision

From the research listed above; it’s down to how the employee feels when they dress at work.

Not only that, their job title could also influence this. First impressions still, and most likely will, always count. If employees are in a client-facing role, it’s important to look professional and approachable — they are effectively representing the business and should be making it look good.

Although, it might be a good opportunity for businesses to ask their staff what they would feel more productive wearing at work. This could be the best indicator of whether a uniform is best for the business or not. As we’ve seen, uniforms can affect behaviour at work and it is down to the individuals as to whether they work best following, or not adhering to, a dress code.