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Why you’re dressing more casually in the office

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If you work in an office, what are you and your employees wearing today? It probably depends on the type of business, and the sector you’re in. But there’s every chance that you’re dressing more casually than you used to.

Of the senior managers quizzed for an OfficeTeam survey in 2016, for example, half said their employees dressed less formally than they did five years before - a sign that many companies are starting to implement more relaxed dress codes.

Even the investment banking sector, notorious for smart suits and traditional business wear, shows signs of cracking to casual. In 2016, JP Morgan sent staff an internal memo saying that business casual dress would be expanded “firmwide”, saying that "more clients are dressing informally, and many parts of our company are already business casual."

It’s clear that the workplace as a whole is starting to throw off the stuffy suit and tie culture. What (or rather, who) is behind this trend, and why is it important when it comes to keeping your business ahead of the pack?

Millennials forge ahead in the workplace

As more and more millennials take on decision-making management positions in the UK workforce, their preference for dressing more casually is filtering down to business as a whole.

Compared to even a generation ago, workplace culture is less formal. Performance, not processes, takes the main focus. So it makes sense that the way many of us dress for work is changing.

Going casual is seen as a perk

In today’s competitive job market, smart companies know they have to stand out as a progressive workplace.

At HR GO, we know this. Helping companies meet their ideal job candidates, we encourage them to get creative with the benefits they offer.

Being able to go to work in more casual clothing is definitely seen as a perk. So much so that when a group of job hunters were polled last year, the survey found that over 60% would view a potential employer negatively if it enforced a dress code.

The message is clear: if you want to attract and retain talent, you may need to reassess what you think your employees should wear to do their jobs.

Staff crave individuality

Workplace research suggests that smart office wear can be a staff turn-off, too. One study showed around 35% of staff felt that smart work clothing was out of date, with over 33% of respondents hoping their company would ditch the corporate dress code.

The top reasons employees gave were for comfort, and the fact they’d prefer to show off their personality in their own choice of clothes.

Dressing too smartly could intimidate clients

Another reason officewear is leaning towards casual? For client-facing businesses with face-to-face customer service functions, dressing too smartly can actually alienate or intimidate clients.

Mirroring how other people dress (within reason, and still projecting a professional image) is a way to put clients at ease, and create the best customer experience.

As ever, it depends on your business

The question of what to wear to work really depends on your business, who your clients are and how often you interact with them.

Dressing casually isn’t appropriate for every situation, and your own workplace culture might still place importance on dressing smartly.

Still, it’s worth remembering that while even the most traditional industries like banking are reflecting the changing etiquette in office dress, it could be time for you to join them.

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