In general, three levels of attire are suitable for a professional workplace, depending on the company and specific policies. Determining what level of professionalism for your office may be dependent on if your business is a customer-facing company or not. In some instances where a business is not customer-facing you may still want to implement a more formal attire approach to aid in the professionalism of your employees and to boost a higher level of work output. If an employee is dressed more professionally, he or she is more likely to give a higher level of work output than if he or she is consistently dressed casually. However, allowing a few ‘casual’ days can also help to boost employee moral by letting them know that you are also thinking about them.
Business attire suggests suits and ties. For men, this is pretty easy. Men wear a suit, tie, and a jacket when the meeting or time is appropriate. For women, this is a little more difficult. While women can go purchase dress and pants suits, we also have many other options to still dress professionally, but putting that outfit together can be a bit tricky. When a woman dresses professionally the outfit must convey an authority. Generally, a blazer or cardigan sweater with matching or suit is suitable and close toed shoes is considered professional.
“With business casual, you have the freedom to be a little more stylish and a lot less conservative” (Martin, 2011, para. 1). This is true for both men and women. Most companies are going with the business casual dress policy because employees still look like they are there to work and be professional, but they aren’t over-the-top formal. More choices are generally offered in this category, such as khaki pants, open-toed heals or flat dress shoes (for women, of course), polo or knit tops, dressy Capri pants (in some cases), and sweaters.
This area can get a bit tricky because one person’s definition of ‘casual’ may be very different than someone else’s. Generally, in business, casual can consist of blue jeans, t-shirts (without logo’s, or with the company logo), and tennis shoes or sandals. However, be careful that your company’s casual day doesn’t get out of hand. Some things to never wear on a casual day at work include flip flops, shorts, tank tops, and baseball caps.
Whichever category you choose to offer to your employees, I recommend spelling out the dress code (both appropriate and inappropriate) in an employee handbook or other document that the employee signs so everyone knows what you expect of them. I also recommend outlining what the consequences of not following the dress code are in the handbook that your employee signs. I had a previous employer even state that women must wear bras to work in his employee handbook. Letting your employees know this detailed information up front can help to reduce misunderstanding and gives you grounds to send them home to change if necessary.
However, as an employer you must treat all employees the same. If you have two employees who choose to wear shorts to work and you have explained in your employee handbook that shorts are not appropriate at work you must reprimand both employees the same. If you don’t, then you can have a big mess on your hands for showing favoritism. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Martin, J. (2011). How women can dress in workplace business casual. Retrieved from http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-women-can-dress-in-workplace-business-casual.html