The rise of the Silicon Valley style approach has challenged traditional ways of doing business, and the employee dress code is no exception. The benefits of casual attire in the workplace are now being recognised by employers outside the tech and creative industries – a boost in team morale, creativity and confidence to name a few. But it’s hard for policies to keep up with the changes. So more and more, companies are turning to their business culture to establish a dress code, rather than a chapter in their policy handbook. Here’s why this is a good idea and how you can do it for your team too…

More and more, companies are turning to their business culture to establish a dress code

Do you really need a written dress code?

Writing a comprehensive policy is time-consuming, tedious and, for all your trouble, it will need frequent updating. Failing to do so can prove disastrous for both the company and its employees, as outsourcing company ‘Portico’ had to find out the hard way. So why bother? It’s a strange concept when you stop to think about it – you’re telling the team of professional, responsible individuals you’ve so carefully recruited, how to dress themselves.

Instead, letting your company culture speak for itself often produces great results. With or without a written policy, employees will gauge what’s acceptable from the working environment, industry, colleagues and clients. And by allowing your team to take control, you promote employee relations built on trust and the acceptance of diversity. You’ll also encourage your team to think about your company brand and values.

So, how can you deal with someone who doesn’t get it right, without pointing at a policy handbook?

As is the case when you have a written dress code, there will be times when an employee doesn’t dress appropriately. When this happens, we would suggest discussing the issue with the individual at your regular 1-2-1s or weekly meetings. You should explain that how they dress goes hand-in-hand with their professionalism, so they will need to tone it up (or down) a little. Remind the individual that we need to be mindful of our client/customer expectations and how they will perceive us.

And what if this doesn’t work?

One reason companies can be reluctant to ditch their written dress code is that they believe it will offer protection in the face of legal challenges. Being aware of the legalities around discrimination is important with or without a written policy. But with an unwritten dress code, your leaders will have more flexibility to deal with employees on a case to case basis and this naturally makes it more inclusive. It also encourages open conversation so your employees can voice their concerns, and get them dealt with, before it becomes a sticky legal situation.

what to wear to work

Of course, there are some industries where a written dress code remains as important as ever- either for health and safety purposes or to where a uniform distinguishes your employees from customers. But in many industries, the dress conventions and norms are constantly evolving, so it’s worth taking a fresh look at how you approach your dress code.

Dress conventions and norms are constantly evolving, so it’s worth taking a fresh look at how you approach your dress code