Dress down days. Love them or hate them?

Do they make you feel more comfortable and at ease, resulting in your productively going up, or do they make you feel like you’re relaxing at home in your favorite slippers, and hence your productivity goes down?

Some of us prefer to “dress to impress” or to don our uniform or to be fully “suited and booted” for the work place. Some of us hate the idea of trying to portray an image through what we wear, and feel that we perform at our best when allowed to be ourselves.

Opinion is definitely split when it comes to this so let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons and you can make up your own mind.

Pros

  • Can be seen as an incentive
  • Improves employee morale
  • Often used alongside charity donations (e.g. pay a dollar to dress down)
  • Can be aligned to national charity days like ‘red nose day’ and ‘children in need’
  • Can create positivity and smiles when special tasks or deadlines need to be achieved
  • Communication, enjoyment and therefore productivity can increase
  • Breaks down barriers between management and staff
  • Gives people a chance to show their personality through what they wear
  • Can show a human side to a more formal environment
  • Less and less people are wearing suits and ties so dress is becoming less formal anyway

Cons

  • Standards–there’s casual and there’s “scruffy”
  • Established staff may resist
  • Professional image of staff with clients is reduced
  • Some workers like to be dress up as it gives them confidence
  • Managers might not be taken seriously
  • Some people can be made to feel uncomfortable or pressured
  • Not all of us can afford the latest designer labels
  • Do important clients react well to being met by someone in ripped jeans and an anarchic t-shirt?
  • Some people don’t want to ruin their cool threads with pen marks and coffee stains

The biggest challenge that a company faces when implementing a casual dress code is defining the limitations/parameters on what is considered acceptable.

Just how casual is casual?

It all depends on the type of business you are in, who your clients are and the appropriateness of it all.

Many firms have cited that a casual dress code creates a casual atmosphere whilst others have said that a business casual code creates the best of both worlds.

A recent study suggested that dress down days have become the most stressful day of the working week for many, with more than one in ten British workers throwing a sick day to avoid it! The study also revealed that a quarter of office workers turn up late after spending too much time deciding what to wear. Meanwhile, a fifth of workers surveyed, confessed to returning home to change their outfit en route to work, panicking that they’re not wearing the right clothes. Thirteen percent of Brits have described the day as their most stress filled day of the working week!

The Chartered Institute of Personal Development (CIPD) have issued guidelines for dress down days, suggesting that clothing should not reveal too much or contain suggestive, provocative or offensive wording. Health and safety issues also come in to play with guidance around open toed sandals, flip flops, etc.

Tensions can also arise between back office staff who can dress casually and customer facing staff who must wear the prescribed standard of dress.

So… in summary, some love it, some hate it and those managing it have to give careful thought and consideration to something which should be simply about occasional days where people might wear their jeans!

About the Author:
Sean McPheat is the Founder and Managing Director of MTD HR Consulting. He built the consultancy from a bank balance of zero and he’s living proof that with hard work and the right strategy, anything is possible!