When we look at fashion in the workplace, it’s clear to see that people don’t dress how they used to. At one time, a nine-to-five job was synonymous with a three-piece suit and briefcase. But, now, many companies are happy to let their employees dress in business casual attire or what they feel comfortable in. Is it affecting productivity, though?

An increase in business casual trends

Because the next generation of people are entering work, the style in offices is changing. It seems as though this age group is more protective over identity and style of dress and are opposed to being told what to wear.

You might be wondering what exactly business casual is. It’s a type of dress that is smart but not overly professional. For a man, this might be an Oxford shirt without a tie, navy trousers and loafers. For women it could be a smart blouse with cropped, tailored trousers and flat shoes.

There has been research conducted into the topic too. When looking into work satisfaction, over one in ten people aged 18-24 said that they had considered quitting their job due to a strict dress code. Older employees, however, do not share the same strong views. Only 7% of those aged 55 and over said that they would think about leaving their employment because of the dress code. Compare this to 17% of 18-24s and it’s clear to see a divide. It might depend on which sector you operate in as to how your staff feel about uniform. Those working in the energy sector (32%), science and pharma sector (31%) and IT sector (29%) are most likely to leave their role due to dress code requirements, one study discovered.

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Therefore, is dress code something that employees should be carefully considering? Quite possibly. Employers are aware of how high staff turnover can have great cost and productivity implications. Costs incur during the recruitment process as the position is advertised and time is spent by employers interviewing and selecting candidates. Having a dress code may deter candidates too — 61% of people looking for a new job in 2017 said that they’d have a negative perception of any company that enforced a dress code. Productivity also takes a hit, as often a current employee has to spend time training the new starter or letting them shadow their day-to-day activities — this can prevent existing workers from working to their maximum capacity.

The creative industry is getting bigger too. In fact, between 2010 and 2016, the creative industries sub sectors (i.e advertising, film and TV) grew their economic contribution by 44.8%. Dress code is often less strict in these companies, as employees are encouraged to express their ‘creative flair’.

How we dress and how we act

Studies have been carried out that prove that what we wear can affect our behaviour.

The results of one study in particular backed this up. In this experiment, individuals were presented with a white coat and told different things. The participants that were told it was a doctor’s coat, felt more confident in accomplishing tasks compared to those that were told they were wearing a painter’s coat. Other research shows that wearing more formal clothing can make people think more broadly.

It’s important to note that everyone is different, though. CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, wears the same casual clothes every day and runs a company worth billions of dollars. He says that dressing in this way gives him one less decision to make and allows him to focus on more important workplace decisions.

Take into consideration that what we wear can influence our productivity too. In fact, the majority of UK workers said that they would feel more productive and put more effort into their appearance if there wasn’t a strict dress code — this is according to a study by Stormline. Moreover, 78% of respondents to one survey said that they would still make an effort to dress well and wouldn’t blur the line between ‘work clothes’ and ‘non-work clothes’ if there weren’t any rules on what to wear.

How should bosses act now?

Based on the research we have looked at, it appears employees should certainly take the time to consider their uniform policy.

As well as differences in personality, office wear can also depend on the job role. First impressions still, and most likely will, always count. If employees are in a client-facing role, it’s important to look professional and approachable — they are effectively representing the business and should be making it look good.

It could be a good idea for bosses to find out about how style of dress affects their workforce productivity. This could be the best indicator of whether a uniform is best for the business or not. As we’ve seen, uniforms can affect behaviour at work and it is down to the individuals as to whether they work best following, or not adhering to, a dress code.