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Dress Code Or Stress Code: Why People Should Drop Dress Code At Work?

Dress Code Or Stress Code: Why People Should Drop Dress Code At Work?

For some people what to wear to work is the last thing on their mind when they are going about their day. But for others, finding the right balance between the practical and the professional can be a source of constant concern and discomfort.

But how do dress codes, relaxed or otherwise, impact on workplace productivity and team morale? Following the recent heatwave, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Frances O’Grady, spoke out against restrictive dress codes. She argued that people “not dealing with the public should be able to discard their tights, ties and suits” and said employers “should do all they can to take the temperature down” in the workplace.

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And according to a survey from Ipsos Global, 45% of the workforce believes that casual dress actively contributes to productivity. So, beyond the heatwave, can a less formal approach to workplace attire help to build a happier and more effective workforce?

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    What the industry says

    Flying in the face of the besuited business archetype, some of the most famous global business leaders have long championed a policy of casual dress. Mark Zuckerberg famously created one of the planet’s biggest brands whilst wearing a hoodie and flip flops, and the late Steve Jobs created his own iconic yet casual personal style to match the clean-lined, modernist brand of Apple – despite initially being in favour of an Apple uniform.

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    Richard Branson, head honcho of the Virgin group, has been a vocal – and visual – opponent of formality for his entire career. As well as his vendetta against the humble tie, Branson believes employees should be allowed to wear whatever “clothing they think will help them to work most productively and enjoy their day”. He does admit that there are exceptions, for cabin crew who need to be identifiable for example, but maintains that comfort should come first.

    Be specific, or not at all

    One of the most confusing dress codes comes from one of the UK’s most archaic institutions, the Houses of Parliament.  They retain an incredibly vague yet suitably over-complex collection of traditions and foibles instead of a fixed or formalised dress code. This has led to many points of order and confusions over the years, including criticism of male members for removing jackets or ties and of women wearing boots or – earth-shatteringly – denim.

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    Communicating the exact nature of a prescriptive dress code can be a difficult thing to do, particularly in a large organisation with many levels of staff, public facing and otherwise. However, simplifying this approach, and trusting staff to dress appropriately for their responsibilities, demonstrates a confidence in the individual and puts value in the collective environment.

    In fact giving staff the option, or at least relaxing your dress code demands, shows respect and can even be a win-win PR spin, both internally and externally. After the share price of fashion house Abercrombie and Fitch tumbled by 39% in 12 months, one of the first things the new executive team did was to change the often criticised, overly sexualised dress code of the staff in their US stores – as well as doing away with their ‘discriminatory’ invitation-only hiring policy. A simple change to make, perhaps – but it demonstrated how dress codes can be fundamental to the experience of both the staff and the shopper, and how it can be tied closely to notions of brand identity.

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    But do such changes have an impact on sales? It’s too early to say for A&F – but one writer put it simply – “By keeping its shirts on, A&F’s new developments have me a lot more eager to actually, well, put their shirts on.”

    Keep it casual

    The popularity of business casual demonstrates how freedom and flexibility is valued by employees above anything else. In fact a recent survey by employment experts totaljobs found that an average of 44% of the workforce are happy to wear business casual now and in the future, rising to over 49% for women.

    It’s worth making the point that an unrestricted casual dress code is attractive to the majority of employees, and limiting what someone can wear at work can dissuade people from engaging with their work environment. Making your company attractive to the best talent around means offering them freedom of choice in their working lives, which is a compelling argument for doing away with restrictive dress codes.

    Featured photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on March 29, 2021

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

    What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

    The Dream Type Of Manager

    My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

    I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

    My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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    “Okay…”

    That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

    I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

    The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

    The Bully

    My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

    However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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    The Invisible Boss

    This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

    It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

    The Micro Manager

    The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

    Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

    The Over Promoted Boss

    The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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    You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

    The Credit Stealer

    The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

    Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

    3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

    Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

    1. Keep evidence

    Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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    Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

    Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

    2. Hold regular meetings

    Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

    3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

    Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

    However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

    Good luck!

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