Originally published 12/12/2112
The days of freshly pressed button down shirts seem to be over. Over the past decade, there’s been a steady increase in casual dress codes. Taking cues from employee gratification powerhouses such as Google, grocery chain Wegmans, and online apparel retailer Zappos.com, companies become motivated to offer better benefits and perks.
However, most companies don’t have access to lush perks such as exclusive health programs (Wegmans), yoga classes (Zappos), and a private bowling alleys (Google). To satisfy current employees and appeal to new talent, companies have settled on additional vacation time, better pay, and of course, a casual dress code.
In theory, casual dress is a great way to keep employees happy. Customers find it easier to relate to the staff. Overall, the company looks “cooler” and more innovative by allowing their staff to dress down. But as some companies have learned, casual dress code can actually hinder productivity within the workplace. Are staff members becoming cliquey or confrontational? Has there been an increase in tardiness and sick days? If so, it may be time to switch over to corporate logo apparel– custom polos, button-downs and cardigans that will remind employees they’re at work.
Here are some tell tale signs that your employees need to ditch the sneakers, t-shirts and baseball caps:
- Staff members become invisible . For physical storefronts, casual dress can actually perplex customers. As many khaki and red shirt wearers have learned after shopping at Target, it’s hard to locate employees if they’re not in a company uniform. If more customers are asking, “Do you work here?” to your staff, it may be time to re-evaluate your dress code.
- Employee cliques rival ‘Mean Girls’. This is a serious disadvantage of casual attire. Interoffice cliques may be created, encouraging employees to set boundaries and put up walls against staff that aren’t a part of their group. It effects the company as a whole, and hurts the potential for two unlikely friends to become great co-workers. Staff may also feel uncomfortable approaching co-workers they’re assigned to work with.
- Your secretary is wearing sweatpants. One of the disadvantages of a casual dress code is deciding where to draw the line. Without predetermined limits, you may find your staff wandering into the hazy, grey area of over-sized sweatpants, too-tight tank tops, and ancient t-shirts. It’s impossible to track what every employee wears every day, so criticism for the occasional Croc wearing employee may not fare well. Establish where the line is, or you may find yourself considering formal work uniforms.
- Desks and common areas are cluttered with dirty dishes. When the office becomes routinely messy, look no further than too comfy casual wear. Casual dress may make your staff feel like they’re working from home. Subconsciously, their behavior at work begins to reflect their behavior at home. It’ll become more difficult to stay organized, and visiting clients may be put off by the mess.
- No one, or everyone, is in charge. We’ve all heard the popular saying, “dress for the job you want, not that job you have,”. What happens when a person in a higher position is wearing converse sneakers- but so are you? Employees who are dressed similarly to their supervisors are likely to see them as a friend, instead of a manager. New employees will find it difficult to distinguish who calls the shots— leading to dissatisfaction in the workplace. Creating separate dress codes- such as custom polos for customer service and button downs for managers–will help draw a line.
- Your sales manager keeps watching ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’. Another popular trend in corporate America is allowing Twitter, Facebook and other social networks to be accessible from work. A casual approach in dress, combined with permission to surf the social media world may lead to serious slacking. When your employee primarily uses social media to socialize or watch funny videos, you may have a problem.
- Employees start seeing green. When you start to overhear conversations regarding low pay, casual attire may be to blame. When employees can wear whatever they want, it becomes more apparent who has extra money- and who doesn’t. If sales associate Peggy notices that sales associate Gina has a cashmere sweater for every day of the week, expect there to be some envy. Poor work performance can come from employees who don’t feel their work is being valued.
- Employees and clients meet up for margaritas. It’s good to have positive interactions with clients. However, if you start to notice that your employees are a little too friendly with customers, casual dress may be to blame. There’s a psychological connection between how you dress and how you act, so although your graphic designer is more relaxed in jeans, they may become a bit too casual. Becoming friends with customers may increase brand loyalty, but can also backfire if employees start sharing confidential information.
- Two hour lunches become the norm. Touching on that theory again- how you dress and how you act- casual clothing causes casual behavior. Employees may begin to take a more carefree approach to the workday. When you start to see staff taking longer lunches or procrastinating, casual attire may be your culprit.
- New clients never come back. Ever have a client come in for a meeting, only to never be heard from again? Consider the possibility that some customers prefer formal dress. Jeans, sneakers and t-shirts don’t exactly promote professionalism and productivity. Your customer may have given their business to a competitor who instead of a Grateful Dead t-shirt, is wearing a tie.