How to Handle Business Dress Code

by JR Griggs

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Dress code

I’ve been asked about dress code a few times from clients. Especially when we are discussing how marketing encompasses everything. Yes, even how your employees are dressed can have an effect on your marketing efforts. It can also have an effect on employee performance. So it is definitely something you want to get right.

It seems to be an issue for so many businesses. Either they don’t have a policy and are just winging it, or they do have a policy but for no other reason than to have one.

Do you go casual? Uniforms? Business? Business casual?

Here is my answer: What ever your policy is, make sure you have one and make sure it is on purpose. That is generally what I tell my clients. It is important to at least have one. And when deciding on casual or uniform or business, just make sure it is on purpose. Make sure you have a reason for that dress code.

Dress Code Benefits

There are different benefits to different dress codes. There are times where a casual dress code can make employees happier and you notice an increase in productivity. There are times where a uniform increases the feeling of being a part of a “team” and increases team work. There are definitely different benefits and those should be considered when choosing a policy.

A common mistake is to see a dress code somewhere and apply it to your business without thinking it through. For instance, maybe you see a software company succeed with a casual dress code and want to apply that to your mechanic shop. Might want to think that one through.

Your first consideration about which policy to go with, should be your customers. How often your employees interact face to face with customers and how a dress code can affect them are important. Once you have considered that, consider the effects on your employees. But most important is the customer.

Casual Dress Code

Casual dress codes have been shown to increase the happiness of your employees. They feel more relaxed and comfortable. They feel a little less restrictive in casual clothes vs. suits or uniforms that might be uncomfortable. Plenty of major companies have gone casual and seen no drop in performance and in many cases a nice increase. However, most of the time this is in a business with little or no customer interaction. Like tech companies, customer support, office jobs, etc.

Uniforms

Uniforms have a lot of benefits and should be highly considered in many businesses. When employees all wear the same uniform it has been shown to increase a sense of teamwork. Uniforms present a professional image. They give you additional advertising and brand awareness. They assure customers that everyone they are dealing with is part of the company.

If you are in the service industry of any kind I highly recommend uniforms. Customers aren’t exactly thrilled to invite some stranger in an AC/DC shirt and jeans into their homes. It is also frustrating when you’re in a store and can’t tell who actually works there because no one has a uniform on.

Uniforms can be a full outfit or as simple as a company T-shirt, polo or dress shirt.

Business Attire

When I say business, I’m primarily talking suits or dress shirt and slacks. Again, any business where customer interaction is high may want business attire. Specifically high end businesses. Financial institutions, sales, etc. Depending on the business and the image of that business, a suit or dress shirt could be a great asset. When you need to present a professional appearance this can be a great way to do so. Especially if you are dealing with customers who dress in business attire.

There is of course also “business casual” as an option. Again it’s all about employee / customer interaction and what image you want to present.

As long as your dress code is on purpose and you are thinking of the customer first, you should be fine. Just make sure you are truly thinking of how the customer will see your employees and what image you want to present to them. Think of how the customer feels when seeing employees. Don’t just see what another company is doing and do it without thinking about the customer.

When setting up a dress code policy make sure that your decision is explained to the employees. Telling them they have to wear a uniform “just because” doesn’t always go over well. Use it as an opportunity to teach about customer service and how they represent the company.

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