People all over the world have conformed to workplace attire expectations for years. But recent times have seen a shake up in these dress codes for many businesses. From the rise of casual clothing for remote work to the wider acceptance and embracing of gender-neutral clothing, many individuals now have more freedom over how they dress for work, whether their roles are remote, in house or hybrid.
One of University of Phoenix’s careers advisors, Carla Hunter, NCC, BCC, CCC, has shared her tips for dressing for success in the modern workplace on the University’s blog. She advises employees to dress for the job that they want and the job that they have, reminding them that they should feel both comfortable and empowered in the clothes they select.
Here, we’ll delve into Hunter’s advice, explaining that industry, environment, generation and gender can all impact dress codes.
Evolution From Professional to Casual Workwear
Casual workwear became prominent during the 1990’s, when “casual Fridays” or “jeans Fridays” became popular. When employers realized that casual wear didn’t typically impact productivity, many relaxed their workplace dress codes beyond the end of the working week.
A couple of decades later, the COVID-19 lockdowns and work-from-home lifestyle heightened this approach, making workwear yet more casual for many. As a result, “business casual” is a popular option for lots of workplaces today. While this approach isn’t always suitable for C-suites, many office workers (especially those who work in remote or hybrid set ups) are embracing power casual or work leisure wardrobes. And those who are permanently remote may still opt for business on top and pajamas below.
A Culture of Individuality
Along with this growing emergence of casual workwear, now many offices welcome a blend of Baby Boomers, Millennials and Generation Xers to the workplace. Some companies have seen a higher volume of young people entering the workforce in light of the Great Resignation, which saw many Baby Boomers leave the workforce while younger generations sought better benefits in new roles. Given this mixture of generations, especially younger generations, a culture of individuality has emerged in the workplace to accommodate workwear.
Generational perspectives on workwear are quickly reshaping what work attire looks like in the modern working world. From tattoos and piercings to statement t-shirts and ripped jeans, wearing clothes that represent their authentic selves is more the norm for younger generations than it has been before. As a result, corporate dress codes are gradually fading in many organizations.
While some traditional companies uphold their old workwear expectations, many companies that have launched in the last decade have more contemporary workwear expectations. These businesses, which are often tech companies and remote-work set ups, often attract younger employees.
Furthermore, as many workplaces let go of outdated gender-specific workwear codes, gender-neutral workwear guidelines are becoming a new norm. Business casual once meant jeans for men and skirts or dress pants for women. But the modern approach of simply dressing as ourselves has replaced these gender-specific limitations in many organizations. More than ever before, people are dressing for who they are rather than dressing to meet expectations.
Professional Clothing and Productivity
During the COVID-19 pandemic, some employers relaxed dress code rules for their remote teams. Others implemented telecommuter dress codes. The Society for Human Resource Management reported that individuals who dressed according to these codes, often in smart casual, business casual or business professional wear, recorded higher levels of productivity than workers who dressed in pajamas or gym clothes.
Similarly, Forbes has suggested that a professional dress code should ask employees to:
- Be as professional as they can in whatever style they choose
- Be themselves by dressing in the colors and styles that suit them
- Dress in a style that befits their industry
These three dress code requirements set a workwear boundary while allowing individuals to dress in ways that please them.
Balancing Employee and Employer Workwear Preferences
Appealing to workers, whether through workwear or otherwise, is now more important than ever for many employers. To put this into perspective, University of Phoenix’s 2022 Career Optimism Index®, which surveyed over 5,000 American adults and 500 employers about their career experiences, found that nearly 1 in 3 employees would leave their job without having another lined up.
Similarly, 33 percent of respondents in a Randstad survey said that they would quit their job or turn down a job offer if the employer required them to follow a conservative dress code.
While dress codes are changing and are now often relaxed and employee-centric, wearing formal or business work attire is often particularly important when clients or stakeholders visit a workplace. In this case, many employers uphold stricter rules on the kinds of clothing that employees should wear on these occasions.
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About University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix dedicates itself to advancing adult and nontraditional learners’ educational goals and to helping students select degree programs that best suit their interests. The University’s degree programs can lead onto numerous in-demand career paths including cybersecurity, nursing and business. Meanwhile, the University offers flexible start dates, online classes and numerous scholarship opportunities so anyone to earn the degree they desire. In addition, University of Phoenix offers a Career Services for Life® commitment to active students and graduates provides the resources needed to be prepared when entering the workforce for no additional charge. This covers resume and interview support, career guidance, and education and networking opportunities. For more information, visit www.phoenix.edu.