Transitioning Dress Codes

Your company’s dress code says a lot about you and your culture. While standard suit and tie were once the norm, more and more companies are opting for a more casual style. According to a survey from Robert Half International Inc., “Dressing up for work continues to go out of style, and half of the senior managers interviewed in the survey said their workers wear less formal clothing than they did five years ago.”

Google even discourages its employees from wearing a suit and tie, with a t-shirt and jeans playing the norm for its engineers. If you’re planning on transitioning dress codes, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.


Avoid Discrimination

At first thought, transitioning dress codes may seem quite innocuous. But it’s important to remember that there are anti-discrimination laws in place that directly impact dress codes. For instance, banning hats could be in direct conflict with certain religions such as Islam where practitioners often wear a taqiyah (rounded skullcap) during daily prayer.

Dress codes can also potentially result in racial, disability and gender discrimination. Even the best of intentions could lead to perceived discrimination and subsequent litigation. Check out this resource from the EEOC for more information surrounding the legalities of transitioning dress codes.


Consider Brand Perception

Sometimes it’s difficult to understand the full scope of implications of this business decision. For instance, you may initially think that a more casual dress code would be better for keeping your employees comfortable and prevent your company from being viewed as overly rigid or uptight.

However, what would your average customer or client think? They might interpret a casual dress code as a sign of unprofessionalism and want to take their business elsewhere. This isn’t to say that you should let outside parties dictate your company culture, but it’s definitely important to consider how a new dress code could impact the perception of your brand.


Adjust Your Policy

Once you know the direction you want to take, put it into writing by adjusting your company’s formal dress code policy. This makes it clear as to what is and what isn’t acceptable and gives employees a specific outline of how they should dress. Make this available for new hires who are orienting.


Communicate Expectations

Finally, enforce the change in dress code policy by setting expectations for your employees. There’s likely to be some confusion surrounding the process, so it’s up to you maintain open communication throughout the initial stages. A brief meeting along with a copy of the new policy is usually sufficient. It’s also extremely important to hold everyone to the same standards and enforce the new policy across the board.

Transitioning dress codes is fairly straightforward but requires some forethought to execute properly. Consider all of the angles and any potential repercussions that could result from these changes. With a little planning, you should be able to implement a new dress code with minimal complications or setbacks.


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