Dress codes are a bit of a loaded topic in the business world. Businesses want to appear hip and fun in order to attract great talent, and they want people to have the freedom to be themselves and be comfortable in order to retain that talent. So they say, “Let’s just skip the dress code entirely and let people be themselves.”
This might be shocking news to some business owners or managers, but employees don’t always think the same way that employers do. While an employer sees the lack of dress code as a positive thing, it can create confusion and even discontent among employees.
The lack of dress code (or a dress code that’s too vague) leaves a lot of room for interpretation. One employee might be looking at their neighbor and thinking, “That’s not what I call professional dress.” But if there’s no policy or a weak policy, there’s not much they can do to address it.
How employees dress can also bleed into workplace harassment and all sorts of other issues. Printed t-shirts could have a message or graphic that’s offensive to an employee and makes the workplace uncomfortable or even hostile for them. Low-cut shirts, tank tops, or jeans with holes can also create an uncomfortable atmosphere or create distractions from the work that needs to be done.
With a dress code policy, you’re creating a framework for employees to work within. You don’t have to answer a bunch of questions about what is or isn’t appropriate, because it’s spelled out in your dress code.
Now, you do have to think about what kind of company you are when creating a dress code, as well as what type of image you want to project if your employees are in public on company business. Some companies require suits and ties. Others allow jeans every day but have guidelines about the types of shirts that are acceptable.
If your employees are going to be on their feet most of the day or crawling under desks connecting computers, that should impact your dress code in terms of footwear and attire. If employees are sitting in close proximity to other employees or clients, that should impact your dress code in terms of perfume and cologne guidelines. If you’re a manufacturing company, OSHA requirements for footwear will impact your dress code.
Here are a few specifics you likely want to include in your dress code:
- Bottoms: Slacks, pants, suit pants, jeans, cargo-style pants, leggings, spandex, sweat pants, skirts, dresses, skirted suits, etc.
- Tops: Button-up shirts, polo shirts, t-shirts, graphic printed shirts, tank tops, sheer tops, low-cut shirts, etc.
- Footwear: Sneakers, athletic shoes, open toes, flip flops, beach-style sandals, thongs, slippers, etc.
- Accessories: Jewelry, makeup, perfume/cologne, tattoos, piercings, facial hair, etc.
One note, however, about tattoos–if you have a strict no tattoo policy, you’re limiting your potential workforce and missing out on some great talent. However, it again comes back to what type of company you are and the image you want to have. Most companies, however, are moving toward guidelines around tattoos similar to their guidelines around t-shirts (no offensive language or symbols), while others may request that employees cover their tattoos while at work.
Ultimately, here are the four most important things to remember when creating a dress code: understand your identity, understand your audience, address the fear of having a dress code, and give employees time to adjust their wardrobes for a newly instituted dress code.
If you’re struggling to create a workable dress code for your company, give us a call. We’re happy to chat about how we can help.