Many professions are synonymous with some sort of outfit. Lawyers wear suits and doctors wear scrubs. But the getups for other types of jobs can be more vague and differ from company-to-company.
Implementing a dress code brings consistency to your workplace. But it’s also important to remember that most people don’t like being told what to wear. In this guide, you’ll learn how you can introduce an effective office dress code policy that isn’t too much of a burden on your staff.
There are plenty of good reasons for your company to have an employee dress code. Perhaps you want the employees who interact with customers to appear professional and welcoming. A dress code requiring a certain type of outfit or specific uniform ensures each team member’s appearance positively represents your company.
Safety is another reason for a dress code. Employees who do labor-intensive work may need to wear protective clothing or gear. For example, people who work in construction, food preparation, or medical jobs are legally required to wear certain clothing to keep themselves and others safe.
A dress code also allows your company to define what’s appropriate for employees to wear in the workplace. If left open to interpretation, outfits can range from jeans and t-shirt to suit and tie, and include everything in between. Implementing an easy-to-understand dress code can prevent problems from occurring and ensure your entire staff dresses consistently.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that people don’t like dress codes. We like to wake up in the morning and put on what makes us comfortable. Many companies that allow for causal dress even advertise it as a perk when recruiting new talent.
One of the biggest downsides of an office dress code is it can stifle individuality. Giving employees total freedom to express their personal style can establish a strong company culture. Picture a stereotypical startup office versus a traditional corporate office. One is likely lively and flowing with creativity and the other is probably boring and mundane.
This doesn’t mean you should abandon plans for a dress code policy. You just need to make sure it will ultimately benefit your company.
Your staff might not be excited to hear a dress code is coming but they’ll be able to accept it if you can provide a good reason for it. Without an explanation, your new policy will likely be met with confusion and disappointment.
Having a defined reason also sets your company up to create an effective office dress code. Don’t lose sight of it or you can end up with a policy that fails to accomplish what you want it to.
An effective dress code is logical and easy to understand. Follow these tips and your employees will accept your new policy:
Businesses are generally free of restrictions when it comes to dress codes. However, discrimination can occur if the policy isn’t properly communicated. Here are a few types of discrimination to be careful of:
Always have your company’s legal team review any new workplace policies before they’re shared with the staff.
Even if you create a fair and understandable policy, some employees will still fail to comply with it. Fortunately, you’ll be able to respond accordingly if the consequences are clearly stated in the employee handbook.
For first time violators, it’s often a good idea to have a calm and private conversation with them. Explain how their outfit falls short of expectations, without questioning or insulting their fashion sense. Make sure they understand the policy and the consequences of a second violation.
If an employee repeatedly fails to follow your policy, it’s up to you and your company to determine the appropriate punishment. You can consider sending the employee home for the day, suspending them, or even termination. Just make sure the repercussions for dress code violations are documented and shared with all your employees.
Creating an office dress code that is fair to your company and staff is a fine balance. First define the goal for your dress code, then create a policy that helps you accomplish it. Keep your goal in mind throughout the planning process and you’ll end up with a dress code that is fair, flexible, and can be easily accepted by your entire staff.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out our infographic titled, “Dress Codes: Do They Matter?”