Change the Dress Code

by Sharlyn Lauby on June 1, 2009

The weather is turning warmer where I live in South Florida.  Soon, we will have 90 degree temps and unbearable humidity.  With that, comes constant conversation about dress code.  What’s appropriate and what’s not.  As HR managers, we have to weigh in on sleeveless shirts, sandals and panty hose.

This annual barrage of decisions begs the question: What should be the purpose of having a dress code policy? Several of my favorite bloggers have pondered dress code policies.  You can see their thoughts here, here, and here.

I have to admit that, early in my career, I was one of those HR folks who thought you needed to wear a suit to work each day.  It just seemed more professional.  And on an interview…it was a must.  But my attitude about work attire has changed over the years…and for several reasons.

Job Responsibility. If a job requires that a person will wear a uniform, why does it matter what they wear to the interview?  As long as whatever they wear is clean…that’s all that counts.  You know they will come to work clean (and wear whatever uniform you give them.)  Another example is Mr. Bartender who worked for a telemarketer at one point in his career.  They required dress shirts and ties . . to talk on the phone.  Huh?? Sure, I know, project a professional image through the phone yadda, yadda.  There are other ways to accomplish the same thing.

Cost. Let’s face it, suits are expensive to buy and maintain.  A lot of casual attire doesn’t need to be dry cleaned and still looks good.  So during a period in time when we all need a break on expenses, casual attire just makes sense.

Polish. You can wear a nice pair of jeans with an ironed shirt and look sharper than a person in a wrinkled suit.  Nuf said.

Want to give your employees a benefit that puts money back in their pocket?  Change the dress code.  The goal of a dress code policy should be for everyone to be safe and look presentable (translated: professional.) I think it’s time we give our dress code policies more than a little casual thought.

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