Many business owners are endorsing a more casual dress code than they had as recently as five years ago. Members of every generation - from Traditionalists to Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and up & coming Centennials/Gen Zers - have voiced their preference to say goodbye to formal attire in the workplace. Progressive businesses listened to their employees and have been adapting their policies accordingly. This is due in part by today’s competitive job market. At zero cost to the company, employers can offer a casual dress code as a perk that helps retain strong talent and attract fresh talent.
Why have a dress code in the first place? Here’s one explanation, copied straight out of the employee handbooks we write for many of our clients: “…to maintain a professional atmosphere that is conducive to the business environment, that contributes to the moral of all employees, and that projects an image of efficiency and professionalism to visitors, clients, vendors, and the public.” Said another way, dress code is part of company culture, and culture should be proactively created, and not allowed to form on its own.
Even with such an understanding, plus a commitment to be appropriately attired while at work and any corporate sponsored social event, “appropriately attired” can mean different things at different companies. To help define and promote their desired culture, many companies select from these three common dress code categories:
Boardroom Attire: Here, men are expected to wear a dark suit with a white dress shirt and subtle tie. Women may opt for a matching pantsuit or skirt suit in traditional colors with dark, closed toe shoes and conservative jewelry. This is considered the most formal of the three categories.
Professional Casual: This is also referred to as Smart Casual. Here, dress slacks with a button down shirt are preferred, perhaps with a jacket or sport coat.
Corporate Casual: As the most casual of the categories, polo shirts with khakis and loafers are acceptable. Some offices even allow jeans, so long as they are not faded, ripped, or distressed.
With June 21st being the first day of summer, not only is warmer weather on the way, but in some offices, so too is a more relaxed dress code. In fact, in response to a Robert Half survey, 57% of HR managers answered that their company offers a more casual office dress code during the summer months. For example, acceptable attire may temporarily shift from Professional Casual to Corporate Casual. Yet even with increasingly relaxed standards, some employees push the envelope further than intended. To avoid a potential dress code violation, employees are advised to avoid wearing any of the following:
Anything sheer or excessively tight, including gym or yoga attire
Flip flops or sneakers
Miniskirts or shorts (ask about longer shorts, such as Bermuda shorts)
Baseball caps and other hats (with the exception of those worn for religious accommodation)
Even during the more relaxed summer months, employees are brand ambassadors.
Therefore, it’s important to stay true to the company’s values and culture.