Is dress code important in the post-pandemic workplace?
The “day of freedom” has passed and a heat wave is indeed upon us. Many employees will consider going back to their offices this week and, indeed, knowing what to wear.
However, with many of us working from home for over a year now, I often dare say it, in joggers I started to wonder if the dress code even matters at the venue. working these days? Do we really need to get back to the office in a suit and boots, or can we get away with our joggers and a hoodie forever more? What is the happy medium?
Well, we did a quick poll on that, and frankly the results were as varied as most people’s office attire. 34% of those surveyed thought what you wore was really important in the workplace, 24% said office attire didn’t matter and the key was just to do a good job, while 43% of those surveyed suggested it was a combination of the two.
While these results aren’t necessarily concrete anyway, what they’re telling me is that we’re definitely entering a new normal when it comes to office attire as well as our working methods, because if I had done this poll two years ago, I’m sure the results would have been very different. The results really got me thinking, when we go back to the office, is something going on now? Should we dress the same in a Zoom call as we do in a face-to-face meeting? And perhaps most interestingly, what does this say about our personal brand and our professionalism in general?
For so long now, traditional dress has remained stagnant. Men’s suits, shirts and ties and fitted dresses or heeled pantsuits for women. In short, the clothes we wear at work are clothes that most of us rarely wear in our leisure time; they are our uniform in the workplace and a uniform that not all of us feel comfortable wearing elsewhere. As far as I can remember, we have been bound by dress codes, imposed by the bosses of yesteryear and these are codes that have not been updated by anyone since.
That being said, quite quietly, some new and more disruptive companies have stepped into fashion issues and opposed this dress code. In recent years, many will have noticed a trend in certain industries of employers encouraging employees to wear whatever they want. For example, have you ever seen a pantsuit in a fintech environment? Or a tailored dress from a PR agency?
As part of my poll, I also went out and asked some industry professionals their position on this as well. I asked them if the dress code was really important after the pandemic. Here is what they said.
Lee McClane, Sales Director, Asset Financing:
“Let’s make one thing clear, it’s a mistake that business attire has ever been elegant. He rarely looks smart. Men wearing ill-fitting suits with horrific tie-shirt-shoe combinations and women dressed as a cross between Rosa Klebb and Cathy Bates from Misery. Formal attire has always been the C or D list of clothing expenses for most people. And it shows. The business tie and suit comes from an era when suits were hand cut to fit. And people didn’t have a two-hour ride on overcrowded public transport. We are a long way from the days of bespoke business adornment for men and women. Jeans and Converse or anything that grows your hair back will do. It’s time to make business attire disappear for the general office environment. It has been years. The formal dress doesn’t look fancy, it just looks old-fashioned.
Patty collins, Deputy Director, U.S. Government Publishing Office:
“Like many answers, it depends. When I was an on-site consultant, I dressed in a similar fashion to my client and yes, something that was acceptable to one client was not necessarily acceptable to another. I also think it’s important to stay away from anything that may be considered offensive or conflicting. I’m not talking about wearing your favorite sports team jersey, I mean t-shirts, hats or pins with slogans. Finally, what you wear shouldn’t hurt who you are or what you do.
Lauren Lefkowitz, Career & Mindset Coach for Mid-Career Professionals Who Want More From Life Than Work:
“I just don’t see the point in continuing to put so much pressure on what we wear at work. It’s exhausting. I think we can all be professional in any clothing that makes us feel comfortable and covers the parts of our body that people get mad at showing off. That said, I know how to dress in different contexts to blend in with social norms. With me, I just want you to show yourself as you are and feel comfortable being who you are.
Allyson kellas, UK Industrial and Employee Relations Advisor, Shell:
“I work in a“ business dress ”environment, but that rarely fits. Smart casual is absolutely perfect depending on your role. Basically, dress for your day. Fridays are laid back I would say people wear what they would for lunch at a decent bar. Casual, sometimes a little dressy, not scruffy. I think it will stay.
Jodi Goldman, Personal Impact Coach, Speaker, Mentor Women in Leadership:
“I think a lot of the old-fashioned business ‘rules’ about dress codes should and should have changed forever. But I think the way we dress matters, in fact I know we do. It matters for the way we are perceived, the impression we make on others, the associations and perceptions they have of us, and it is an opportunity for people to get a sense of who we are. are and what we stand for….and, I know what we wear is important to how we see and feel about ourselves. We think, act, feel and behave differently depending on what we wear. I never say nobody possesses wear xyz to look “professional” because there is no a more professional….corn… I say (and I will always say) that it is important to show off in your life, to look and feel good.
Ally Jones, Independent Executive Leadership Coach
“I really don’t understand all of ‘casual business’. We are all human and when we are not at work we wear reasonable clothes that showcase our personality. Why should people dress differently at work? We are still only people who communicate with each other. I don’t respect someone anymore because they chose to wear a costume. My perception of someone at work is based on two things: their behavior and their performance. My take… wear what you’re comfortable with as long as it doesn’t offend or upset someone.
Kurt beard, Coo operationsDirector, GadellNet Consulting Services
“Clothing is a question of culture. I just think people are not impressed with the costumes anymore and I believe in most situations they are seen as stuffy and overwhelmed. People are more impressed with a culture that communicates that today’s heat index is 110, so we wear comfortable shorts and clothes. When I have run offices with super relaxed dress codes, clients and salespeople frequently mention that they are jealous. That said, there are times when you have to dress, but not a lot.
Melanie E Denyer, MSc Applied AI and Data Analysis, Ethical Data Practitioner and Strategic Analyst
“There are more important things in life. Wheelchair users who have difficulty finding suitable clothing that will also look “smart” or “professional”, neurodivergent people who have sensory issues with different fabrics and closures, etc.
Other groups with protected characteristics may feel the same as I do. The problem of women having to wear heels in corporate dress codes is a problem that comes to mind, where women with natural afro hair are told to tame them. If the lockdown has proven anything, it’s that you can wear whatever you like when you’re not on Zoom and that doesn’t change the way you do your job. “
Denise pickburn, Owner of Happy Minds Hypnotherapy, The Anxiety Angel & Hypno-Trim.
“Personally, I would like to think that the ‘old days’ of office attire are over. The world has changed. Unless you are in direct contact with customers and your organization needs you to portray a certain image to customers, what does it matter what you actually wear as long as you do the job? “
Good, you have it now. Based on the crowdsourcing wisdom above, it feels like we’re at a crossroads with our attire and now is the time, too.
One thing is for sure though, what you wear is who you are; it’s your part of your personal brand. The key is to be the real you. Be neat, on the mark and stylish even if you are dressed casually. But above all, feel good about yourself so you can love what you do. It is only in this way that the real that you will have will shine.