Your Dress Code is Nonsense - Trust Your People

Let me tell you what I’m wearing. Ok – so that sounds terrible, before you report me, just hear me out. I’m wearing a short sleeved casual shirt and jeans. Sitting on the bus this morning, I looked around at my fellow commuters – assuming they too were travelling to work - I noted that, like me, the majority were dressed in a similarly casual manner. It’s Friday, so I also make the assumption that for most, the companies that they work for have a casual Friday dress code. Yesterday however the bus was filled with suits, shirts, blazers and pencil skirts (I’ve been reliably informed this is the correct terminology).

It made me wonder, why, in 2017, do employers still tell their employees how to dress?

Dress codes traditionally are based on a number of ‘arguments’ - most of which I’d go as far to say are ‘nonsense’ for the workplace today. For those of us that wore school uniforms, some of these arguments will be fairly familiar - ensuring productivity, encouraging appropriate behaviour and to demonstrate equity, so that no-one is treated differently because of the affordability of their clothes. In our adult lives, the ability to physically change from a ‘work-self’ to a ‘weekend-self’ can be seen to catalyse the ‘mental-switch-off’ that many of us need after a long and taxing day. And finally, the formalities of a dress code preserve how employees are representing the brand to customers and clients.

I argue that we don’t need a Dress Code anymore, we need to trust our people. The way I see it, trusting people, encouraging self-awareness and giving guidance to people should be at the heart of any great company. Most companies are striving to create a workplace that encourages its people to be the best that they can be, and to support diversity – all with the aim of increasing productivity. So how do I see these three imperatives in action? I’m proud to say I see it every day at here Jasmax.

Most of the people here are creative, dressing with varying their levels of creativity and / or formality according to their diary and what they have on the cards that day. Some of our people choose Friday as their ‘dress to impress’ day, some days people wear a suit, or a blazer, others, a t-shirt just feels right. We encourage our people to take pride in their appearance, in a way that’s comfortable for them and allows them to bring themselves to work. The point is, there’s trust in our people to do what’s right for them and for the company.

I understand the argument that there still needs to be some fall-back if someone just doesn’t get it, or slips up with an error of judgement but that’s where honest conversations come in. As a leader, guide your people, be honest with them and help them understand the cultural norms at play, what’s ok and what’s just not.Here’s at Jasmax our only reference to attire is contained in our Code of Conduct and goes something like this ..

We trust our people to wear what’s appropriate to themselves, the practice and our clients.

That’s it. No descriptions. No rules. Just this message and the trust that goes with it.

We’re all adults, working toward the same goal. We spend a third of our lives at work – yes, we’ve all heard this before – but what I’m saying is it’s time to challenge the status quo, to challenge the ‘rules’ and front up to rapidly changing nature of the workplace and the diversity of our workforce! I’m not arguing for a casual dress code, I’m arguing for no dress code. If you want to wear a suit to work – wear it. If you want to wear top hat and tails, all power to you. Here at Jasmax we have a senior architect with a penchant for hand-made bow ties (you know who you are you fashion icon you!) – I love this, I love that people can be themselves here. People are able to bring themselves to work, are treated like adults and are able to express themselves through their attire and celebrate their diversity.

So this goes out as a call to action to employees across New Zealand and beyond – Challenge the rules, challenge the status quo and demand that your employers don’t just treat you, but trust you as adults.

Image Credit: Hanna Strobel

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