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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 July 16, 2019

    7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

    7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

    Office politics – a taboo word for some people. It’s a pervasive thing at the workplace.

    In its simplest form, workplace politics is simply about the differences between people at work; differences in opinions, conflicts of interests are often manifested as office politics. It all goes down to human communications and relationships.

    There is no need to be afraid of office politics. Top performers are those who have mastered the art of winning in office politics. Below are 7 good habits to help you win at the workplace:

    1. Be Aware You Have a Choice

    The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight. It’s normal human reaction for survival in the wild, back in the prehistoric days when we were still hunter-gatherers.

    Sure, the office is a modern jungle, but it takes more than just instinctive reactions to win in office politics. Instinctive fight reactions will only cause more resistance to whatever you are trying to achieve; while instinctive flight reactions only label you as a pushover that people can easily take for granted. Neither options are appealing for healthy career growth.

    Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognize that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react. So how do you choose? This bring us to the next point…

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    2. Know What You Are Trying to Achieve

    When conflicts happen, it’s very easy to be sucked into tunnel-vision and focus on immediate differences. That’s a self-defeating approach. Chances are, you’ll only invite more resistance by focusing on differences in people’s positions or opinions.

    The way to mitigate this without looking like you’re fighting to emerge as a winner in this conflict is to focus on the business objectives. In the light of what’s best for the business, discuss the pros and cons of each option. Eventually, everyone wants the business to be successful; if the business don’t win, then nobody in the organization wins.

    It’s much easier for one to eat the humble pie and back off when they realize the chosen approach is best for the business.

    By learning to steer the discussion in this direction, you will learn to disengage from petty differences and position yourself as someone who is interested in getting things done. Your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is mature, strategic and can be entrusted with bigger responsibilities.

    3. Focus on Your Circle of Influence

    At work, there are often issues which we have very little control over. It’s not uncommon to find corporate policies, client demands or boss mandates which affects your personal interests.

    Gossiping and complaining are common responses to these events that we cannot control. But think about it, other than that short term emotional outlet, what tangible results do gossiping really accomplish? In most instances, none.

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    Instead of feeling victimized and angry about the situation, focus on the things that you can do to influence the situation — your circle of influence. This is a very empowering technique to overcome the feeling of helplessness. It removes the victimized feeling and also allows others to see you as someone who knows how to operate within given constraints.

    You may not be able to change or decide on the eventual outcome but, you can walk away knowing that you have done the best within the given circumstances.

    Constraints are all around in the workplace; with this approach, your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is understanding and positive.

    4. Don’t Take Sides

    In office politics, it is possible to find yourself stuck in between two power figures who are at odds with each other. You find yourself being thrown around while they try to outwit each other and defend their own position; all at the expense of you getting the job done. You can’t get them to agree on a common decision for a project, and neither of them want to take ownership of issues; they’re too afraid they’ll get stabbed in the back for any mishaps.

    In cases like this, focus on the business objectives and don’t take side with either of them – even if you like one better than the other. Place them on a common communication platform and ensure open communications among all parties, so that no one can claim “I didn’t say that”.

    By not taking sides, you’ll help to direct conflict resolution in an objective manner. You’ll also build trust with both parties. That’ll help to keep the engagements constructive and focus on business objectives.

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    5. Don’t Get Personal

    In office politics, you’ll get angry with people. It happens. There will be times when you feel the urge to give that person a piece of your mind and teach him a lesson. Don’t.

    People tend to remember moments when they were humiliated or insulted. Even if you win this argument and get to feel really good about it for now, you’ll pay the price later when you need help from this person. What goes around comes around, especially at the workplace.

    To win in the office, you’ll want to build a network of allies which you can tap into. The last thing you want during a crisis or an opportunity is to have someone screw you up because they harbor ill-intentions towards you – all because you’d enjoyed a brief moment of emotional outburst at their expense.

    Another reason to hold back your temper is your career advancement. Increasingly, organizations are using 360 degree reviews to promote someone. Even if you are a star performer, your boss will have to fight a political uphill battle if other managers or peers see you as someone who is difficult to work with. The last thing you’ll want is to make it difficult for your boss to champion you for a promotion.

    6. Seek to Understand, Before Being Understood

    The reason people feel unjustified is because they felt misunderstood. Instinctively, we are more interested in getting the others to understand us than to understand them first. Top people managers and business leaders have learned to suppress this urge.

    Surprisingly, seeking to understand is a very disarming technique. Once the other party feels that you understand where he/she is coming from, they will feel less defensive and be open to understand you in return. This sets the stage for open communications to arrive at a solution that both parties can accept.

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    Trying to arrive at a solution without first having this understanding is very difficult – there’s little trust and too much second-guessing.

    7. Think Win-Win

    As mentioned upfront, political conflicts happen because of conflicting interests. Perhaps due to our schooling, we are taught that to win, someone else needs to lose. Conversely, we are afraid to let someone else win, because it implies losing for us.

    In business and work, that doesn’t have to be the case.

    Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him.

    Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agreed resolution and will not pay only lip-service to it.

    People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace.

    Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long term.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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