Dress Codes in the Workplace: The Finer Points of Business Casual
In the first part of our series on workplace dress codes, we covered the definition of a dress code and talked about the various aspects of business formal.
In this post, we’re discussing some of the intricacies of a business casual dress code.
Business Casual Represents a Shift
As human-resources website The Balance pointed out, workplace dress codes are becoming increasingly more casual. The days of Mad-Men style suits, watches and ties are moving into their zenith as jeans and TOMS take over.
This isn’t just a hunch, either. The shift in dress code has been well-documented over the years. An article from Forbes contributor Jacob Morgan explores this shift.
He was meeting with one of the world’s largest retailers for a consultation about making the company more transparent and less hierarchical.
His first impression? Hundreds of employees were silently working at their cubicles in full suit and tie. He said it was obvious they were uncomfortable and they weren’t dressed this way for customers because they didn’t interact with customers.
The CEO of the company said suit-and-tie was the dress code when he arrived and he didn’t plan on changing it.
Here’s what Morgan wrote:
“Does it really matter if you show up in a T-shirt versus a suit and tie? Should organizations enforce dress code? Does dress code really have an impact on corporate culture? You bet it does!”
With that in mind, you should consider how your dress code relates to the culture you want to foster in your workplace. Will suit-and-tie guidelines mesh with a desire to have a relaxed, open workplace?
Also, consider your customer interaction and your product or service: Is what you’re selling and who you’re pitching consistent with what your employees are wearing?
To give you a sense of what “business casual” encompasses, we’ll list some of the guidelines included in The Balance’s sample text for a workplace’s business casual dress code:
- Polo shirts with khaki pants
- Sweater and collared shirt with khakis
- Jacket, sweater and skirt
Of course, these are general guidelines for most professional workplaces. Shorts, t-shirts and sandals are acceptable in some cases. Just remember, you shouldn’t think of your dress code as mutually exclusive from other aspects of your corporate culture.
Consider it part of an interrelated matrix of philosophies and goals for your team. As you craft a new dress code or adjust your existing one, consider what you sell, to whom you are selling and what kind of culture you want in your workplace. This should make your dress code decisions much easier.
The other variable here is your workforce. What are your employees’ cultural backgrounds? What have they been told about your dress code?
Canadian human resources site HR Council says it’s important to be mindful of your employees as you craft your dress code. Their four reminders are:
- Keep your dress code language gender-neutral
- Consider the cultural background of your employees
- Allow your employees to participate in the formation of dress-code policy
- Review your dress code during onboarding.
If you want code examples for your organization, take a look at this sample dress code from the Society for Human Resources Management. Their sample code is for business formal, with a detailed section for business casual dress-down days.
One More Post to Go…And It’s a Good One
Our series on dress codes continues with tips and tricks for dressing stylish while not being pretentious, as well as websites and subscription services that can enhance your wardrobe without breaking the bank.
In the meantime, take a look at the first post in our series. We cover the basics of the definition of a dress code and offer suggestions and links concerning a business-formal dress code.