Do dress codes still matter?

Orla Hodnett
Orla Hodnett

The attitude to dress codes is changing radically. Some companies still enforce them, others abandon them all together. It can be hard to hit the right tone with dress codes, but I think we can all agree on one thing: no sweatpants.

Dress codes can elicit very different reactions from different members of your team. They can either be perceived as unnecessary or repressive, or they can be perceived as a guideline that makes deciding what to wear a little easier.

These differing views can be seen between organisations, with technology companies favouring a lax approach and other professional organisations having lengthy, strict sets of rules. With significant, recent changes come the questions: do dress codes matter any more? How do I enforce one when so many companies do not?

Dress codes are in the decline

Dress codes in organisations are becoming less and less common. This change is said to have been brought about by the millennial workforce, who favour a workplace where there are fewer limitations on what they can wear to work. 60% of millennial organisations and the millennial workforce favour a more relaxed dress code.

Should we still be enforcing dress codes in the workplace?

Larger technology companies have also developed a reputation for being quite casual about dress codes. Hoodies are not out of place in these environments and this relaxed attitude does help to appeal to the kind of talent they are looking for. With that in mind, should we still be enforcing dress codes in the workplace?

Why should you have a dress code?

Dress codes reflect very strongly on your organisation. They can impact on your brand and how the general public perceives your organisation. In addition to that, the absence of a dress code can impact on your existing team’s morale or motivation. A dress code can dictate how your team works and their attitude to work.

The absence of a dress code can also impact on your organisation’s ability to appeal to talent. If your dress code is perceived to be unprofessional, perhaps potential candidates will see your company as unprofessional? A well-dressed team can leave a very positive impression on potential hires and suggest to them that your organisation is serious about what they do.

You want your team to be comfortable at the workplace, but you also want to set out some specific guidelines

How to implement a dress code

Setting out a dress code can be challenging with the changing perception of workplace dress codes. You want your team to be comfortable at the workplace, but you also want to set out some specific guidelines. When putting together a dress code, consult with your existing team. The guidelines should be brief and easy to follow.

Another option is a micro dress code. Micro dress codes can be applied on a per department basis. That is, if your department is customer-facing or you have a senior role in the organisation, you should follow a stricter dress code. This helps to achieve balance and helps to address specific groups appropriately.

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