Blog

30 August 2017
Is your work dress code putting off talent?

Dress code has been a discussed topic as of late. We all remember the story of Nicola Thorp, who was sent home from her job as a secretary at PwC for refusing to wear high heels. Does being told what to wear impact employees?

The latest research by Style Compare asked 2,000 UK workers about dress code that revealed some interesting responses such as that strict workplace dress codes are damaging morale, driving away young talent and making people want to quit their jobs. The findings suggest that far from improving morale and productivity as was hoped by the employers, these dress attire rules have a negative impact on the UK workers.

Jonny Challenger, the founder of Style Compare, asks businesses to find out why they have dress codes in the first place.

“As our study shows, the vast majority of adults see little benefit in office dress codes and many resent being told how to dress. People will tolerate resentment for as long as they have no choice, but as the data shows, when people do have a choice, they often choose to work elsewhere.

“Companies and even entire industries are alienating people due to outdated notions of what is appropriate for work.

“The big problem is that we’re afraid to challenge the definition of what ‘smart’ actually is.

“People dress to express themselves and organisations should embrace that. If you trust someone enough to manage your company’s databases or to speak to your customers, surely you must trust them enough to dress appropriately.

“Organisations that still feel the need to impose restrictions on how their people dress are actually signaling that they don’t trust them to make appropriate choices. Forcing people to conform to a narrow definition of what is ‘smart’ excludes entire styles and cultures, limiting the talent pool and restricting people’s career opportunities.”

When we are talking about dress codes, that covers anything from business to casual. The survey found who wears what to work:

Dress code at work

Focusing on age and the impact of dress code, the survey revealed the following:

Dress code at work

Key findings of the full survey were:

  • 92% of the UK’s 18-24-year-old workforce are subject to some sort of dress code
  • 70% of 18-24-year-olds see no benefit to dress codes at all
  • 20% of 18-24-year-olds will avoid companies and industries that have strict dress codes
  • 18% of people aged 18-24 have considered quitting their job over the employer’s dress code.
  • 12% of UK adults, on the whole, have considered quitting. Men are slightly more likely to quit than women (14% men v 10% women).
  • Insurance sector has the strictest dress codes
  • Publishing and journalism has the most relaxed dress codes

You can see the full article here.

Companies in which employees routinely interact with prospects, clients and business partners typically need a dress code to maintain a professional image. With a clear dress code, you will help employees avoid making inappropriate choices in dress that could cause a safety problem, a human resources issue, or even a PR disaster. But the above findings suggest that you should not tell employees what to wear, however, let them decide for themselves. With the evolving work world, businesses need to consider their own industries and the benefits to having a dress code, if at all.

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