How to Implement a Dress Code in the Workplace
How to Implement a Dress Code in the Workplace

How to Implement a Dress Code in the Workplace

Your employees probably won’t be thrilled to hear that a dress code is coming. But if done right, they’ll be more likely to accept and adhere to it if you can provide a good reason for requiring a workplace dress code. Here’s a quick post to help you figure out how to put dress code requirements into action at your workplace.

Why should I implement a dress code?

If you don’t have a formal dress code, you’re not alone. You’ll find plenty of solid rationale for your company to put an employee dress code in place. Most companies that go the dress-code route do so because they want their employees who are customer-facing to look a little more pulled together. Implementing an easy-to-follow dress code can help improve customer perception and employee morale. A dress code governing business attire can bring a sense of consistency to the work environment as well.

The Pros and Cons of a Company Dress Code

First a few cons:

  • Employees generally have an initial negative reaction to a dress code, especially if your company has never had one.
  • It can stifle individuality. This is especially true when you work in a creative industry. Banning unusual hair colors or visible tattoos might not go over well at a design agency but can work at an accounting firm.
  • Someone has to enforce the rules. Is it you, HR, managers? Who’s going to be the arbiter of clothing?
  • Informal dress codes around casual work attire can be ambiguous, making it tough to enforce the rules.
  • You can run into trouble when it comes to rules that can be viewed as discriminatory. For example, not allowing religious headwear, dictating hair styles, or treating men and women differently can result in a discrimination lawsuit.

Now, the positives:

  • Consistency. This can definitely be a plus if you have teams of customer-facing people. Having everyone wearing the same thing will reinforce your company brand with your clientele.
  • Not everyone will be against the new policy even if you mandate, “khakis and a black shirt.” Think Steve Jobs. That guy loved wearing a work uniform every day. Chances are a lot of your employees will likely feel the same way. Being required to wear a standard set of clothing every day can save them time and money.
  • Safety. This “pro” might not apply to every working environment, but certain attire can be detrimental to an employee’s health. There’s a reason why ties and rings aren’t typically allowed in a manufacturing environment.

The Dos and Don’ts of a Dress Code

Workplace dress codes will typically vary depending on the part of the country you’re in, as well as how conservative the working environment is. Are you going for business casual or a smart casual dress code? Or are you requiring suits and ties? Keep in mind that simply saying your dress code is business casual won’t cut it. Different people will have varying interpretations as to what that term means so you want to be absolutely clear on what’s acceptable attire to wear to work and what’s not. The majority of employees will fall in line when it comes to workplace dress, but you’ll likely have one or two who wear clothes that aren’t appropriate. You’ll need to define consequences for not following the rules.

You should also address appropriate attire for off-site company events, such as trade shows or client meetings.

Generally, there are a few items that can be included or excluded in your dress code regardless of your company’s set up. Using imagery is often helpful to clarify exactly what you mean. For example:

dress-code-tips

Implementing formal dress codes might rub some employees the wrong way, so if you plan to institute one, make sure you’ve got it in writing in your employee handbook. It’s important that everyone understands what’s expected of them across the board. If you’re having difficulty figuring out exactly what to include, check out our post with a sample dress code policy here.


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