How important is a dress code now?
To answer this question, you have to look at the specific business you are in and what your employees do all day.
Do employees deal a lot with customers in person? If so, you want them to look nice, but a suit isn’t needed. Do they deal with customers over the phone? If so, who cares what they wear, if they are comfortable.
When companies sent everyone home to work due to the pandemic, many people found solace by staying in their pajamas all day, if they didn’t have video calls. Now that the world is transitioning back to the office, many people don’t want to give up their comfy clothes on office days. Now, we aren’t talking about wearing jammies to work. But we are talking about ditching the “formal office dress code,” and being more empathic to employees.
“There’s a wide spectrum of clothing choices between pajamas and a business suit,” said Sharlyn Lauby, President of ITM Group, on the latest HR Bartender. “Maybe the policy could be ‘wear what’s appropriate for the work you’re doing that day.’ If you’re meeting with a client and a business suit is appropriate, then that’s what you wear. But if you’re going into the office to sit on Zoom calls all day with co-workers, maybe a suit isn’t necessary.”
She goes on to say that being able to have options of what to wear to work can save employees money and make them happier. And we all know what that means … happier employees are productive employees!
Also, think about this: Does it matter what your employees wear, if they aren’t in front of customers every day?
A nice pair of joggers for men with a polo shirt is comfy. Yoga pants with a short sleep nice T-shirt are also comfy.
In the end, it’s up to each employer to decide. Just remember, we are in the midst of the Great Resignation. Pick your battles wisely. You don’t want to push employees away by forcing them to wear suits or other formal office wear if it isn’t necessary.
Altered dress code policy
But if executives feel a dress code is still necessary, Forbes says the three most important elements of any dress code are:
- Be professional no matter the style you choose to wear
- Be you. It’s great to show your personality via your clothes, whether that’s colors, patterns or a style, like vintage clothing, and
- Dress in a style that’s conducive to your industry.
Hair color, styles
You can even take the dress code even further by talking about hair color and tattoos.
Does it matter what color an employee’s hair is?
It doesn’t affect the quality of work. It was once thought that natural Black hair styles like afros, dreadlocks and braids were unprofessional. Like how you wear your hair affects the work you do. But it’s actually the opposite. When people feel comfortable expressing who they are, they’re happier employees. And when employees see organizations embracing individuality, they are the companies they want to work for.
There’s actually legislation – the CROWN Act which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair – right now that would protect against bias based on hair texture and protective styles, including locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots and Afros. The bill already passed the House, but still needs to pass the Senate.
And as for tattoos, the same can be said about them.
I’m an editor with 30 years of experience, and I have tattoos … not to mention the fact I had dark purple hair at one time in my professional career. And neither my tattoos nor my purple hair affected my job performance.
No longer are tattoos looked down upon as they once were. For many people, they’re an art form. For others, they’re a tribute to a loved one. And for still others, they’re an obsession. But whatever the symbolism is, if a tattoo isn’t offensive, it should be OK for the workplace.
After all, you don’t want to reduce the number of available candidates you have to pick from in a tight hiring market. Especially when you find out that three out of four candidates have tattoos, according to Indeed.
However, to prevent potential problems Indeed suggests creating a tattoo policy. Here are four topics they suggest covering in the policy:
- Visible tattoos – If you allow visible tattoos, can they be on any body part? Some employers don’t allow them on the face and neck, but any place else is OK.
- Offensive tattoos – Consider what makes people uncomfortable. Words or images that promote illegal activities, hate or violence should be banned. Indeed lists the following examples as tattoos that are potentially offensive to co-workers or customers: bashing religion, race or gender; profanity or controversial phrases; political figures; weapons or threats of physical or emotional harm; nudity or sexual innuendos; and promoting drug or alcohol use. For a comprehensive guide on hate symbols and tattoos, turn to the Anti-defamation League (ADL).
- Multiple tattoos – Are you going to allow multiple tattoos? If you do, are sleeves, OK? If you don’t, does that mean you can’t hire them at all, or they can cover them up?
- Who can have tattoos? Will you allow anyone to have a tattoo or only people who don’t deal with customers?
These are all things you have to consider if you’re creating a tattoo policy. And remember, there isn’t a one-size fits all policy.
Another factor to consider is body piercings. You can make the same kind of policy as a tattoo policy.