As the world finally gets some breathing room following the pandemic, many businesses are struggling to re-establish office routines. Whether it’s redistributing workloads due to staff shortages or setting policies for remote work, there are ample new or revamped workplace expectations that must be addressed to ensure a well-running business.
One common issue employers are struggling with is the employee dress code. Regardless of what type of business you run, your workplace needs to have a strong policy in place for employee attire.
Why? Studies show that employees gain more respect from both their customers and their peers when they are dressed in an appropriate manner. Thus, it pays to make sure that your employees are appropriately dressed for your business needs.
Read on to find useful tips and tricks to make sure your dress code is appropriate and successful. Also, you can jump ahead to see our sample dress code reminder email to employees.
Find the right fit
An appropriate employee dress code doesn’t have to mean formal business attire. Rather, it requires clothing that is appropriate for the type of business being conducted. If you are an attorney meeting with business clients or making a court appearance, a suit is appropriate (and, in some courts, it’s mandatory).
Even in a more casual environment, a dress code is a must. Take the retail store for example. Virtually all stores have some sort of dress code for employees. For some, like a retail clothing store, the attire likely matches the type of clothes being sold. It’s entirely appropriate for a men’s high-end suit shop to require its employees to also wear suits to work every day. However, a casual clothing store may require employees to simply wear jeans and a button-down shirt.
For many businesses, the most practical option is a uniform. Whether the uniform is provided by the employer or simply dictated by guidelines depends on the specific needs of the business. An upscale restaurant may require all employees to wear black pants and a solid color shirt, but not be exacting about the style as long as they match the atmosphere of the venue; whereas a ski resort may provide shirts, hats, gloves, and ski jackets with the resort emblem on them so that employees are easily recognizable. For some businesses, aprons or t-shirts with business logos may be the most appropriate employee dress code option. Regardless of the specifics, dress codes involving uniforms mean customers will have an easy time identifying employees when needed.
Other businesses may have a more strict employee dress code on most days, but allow more casual attire under certain circumstances. For example, casual Fridays are popular among many businesses as a way of allowing their employees to unwind at the end of the work week. Companies where employees seldom have client interactions may permit a business casual dress code and require more formal attire only during client interactions or special presentations. Regardless of how you structure your dress code, just make sure that it is appropriate for your business.
Ease into it
Before you send a dress code reminder email to employees, you need to have an established dress code. If you haven’t previously had a strict or well-established dress code, don’t simply announce it one day and expect it to be immediately followed. Rather, take steps to ensure employee buy-in. Conduct a survey to gauge employee feelings regarding the implementation of a dress code. Be sure to ask questions that highlight potential reasons for establishing a dress code. For example, inquire whether employees have ever been asked, “Do you work here?” and how often. Or ask if employees see the financial benefit in being provided with a uniform that they don’t have to purchase. By phrasing questions in this manner, you’re giving them the opportunity to see the benefit of a dress code, as opposed to focusing on the potential burden.
Another important step is to announce your new dress code and ease into implementing it, especially if you are going from a casual environment to one requiring more formal attire. Your employees will need time to build an appropriate work wardrobe. Consider creating a trial period when the code is in effect but there are no consequences for failing to adhere to the specifics. This allows time for employees to familiarize themselves with the code specifics and gives them time to purchase new clothes, if necessary. It also forgives potential forgetfulness for tenured employees who are used to the old dress code. Once employees have had the opportunity to get used to the code, you can make it mandatory going forward.
The devil is in the details
Make sure your dress code is clear and unambiguous. To do this, give a written policy to all employees, and require them to sign an acknowledgment that they have received and understand the policy. And make sure it is always available in the same location at your office. Once they understand the policy, it’s reasonable to occasionally send a dress code reminder email to your employees.
Ensure your policy contains sufficient detail through the use of examples. Don’t simply state that your policy is “business casual.” Give specifics of what “business casual” means. Likewise, give examples of what is not appropriate as well. Include an FAQ section that you update regularly as questions arise. It is entirely likely that if one employee has a question about the dress code, others do as well.
Communication is key
Consider having a meeting to go over expectations and allow questions. During the meeting, explain the dress code in detail, and make sure your employees fully understand the reason for its implementation. Also, clearly articulate the consequences for failing to adhere to the policy.
A successful dress code policy will require periodic reminders of what your code entails, why it’s important, and how to address questions your employees may have. Send out a quarterly email dress code reminder to all employees, and consider some sort of reward system for employees who consistently follow the code, even if it’s nothing more than a simple email thank-you note.
Here’s an example of a clear and concise reminder email:
Just a Reminder
During business hours, Whitman Associates employees are expected to be dressed and groomed in a professional and businesslike manner to reflect our Washington, D.C. location. Furthermore, studies show that employees gain more respect when they are dressed in a professional manner.
We need to keep in mind what is appropriate for Business Casual when your particular assignment permits Business Casual. Business Casual wear is NOT the same attire one would wear for the weekend or at home.
Examples of appropriate Business Casual attire:
Slacks, i.e. khakis, dockers and similar slacks
Button-up or polo shirts
Dress shoes (not flip flops, athletic shoes, etc.)
Examples of inappropriate Business Casual attire:
Tattered, tight, skimpy or revealing clothing
Tank tops, halter tops, midriff shirts
Loose footwear, i.e. sandals, flip flops, etc.
Any questions about attire should be discussed directly with Whitman Associates. Remember, you will be treated with more respect when you are appropriately dressed. As always, thanks for your cooperation and help in this matter.
With a little planning and strategic implementation, your dress code will be a success for your employees and your bottom line!