Does Dress Code Affect Productivity in the Workplace? (2024)

Does Dress Code Affect Productivity in the Workplace? (1)

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We’ve all heard the age-old adage, “dress for success,” but is it true? Does what you wear to work affect your performance? Could your clothes have an impact on productivity? Read on as we tackle the ins and outs of dress codes in the workplace.

The Research

Does Dress Code Affect Productivity in the Workplace? (2)

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There are varying viewpoints, each supported by data, regarding workplace dress codes out there.

Michaela Rollins, Head of Brand and Content at Hive, a project software company, wrote a piece posted on Hive’s website entitled, “Does What We Wear to Work Affect Our Productivity.” According to Rolllins, “Typically, if you’re expected to don a suit and tie, it’s a more buttoned up (literally) environment with client-facing activity. These formal dress codes are often associated with companies in the finance or law realms. Less formal offices tend to employ people for more behind-the-scenes work (think a young tech company), where something like jeans andAllbirdsare standard. There are also companies that fall somewhere in-between — 62% of companies across the country allow casual dress at least once a week, compared to the 36% that allow it every day. 36% isn’t a crazy high percentage, but it is an increase from the 2014 percentage, which was only 19%.”

Rollins continues on to suggest that casual dress is the way to go, writing, “According to studies,61% of employeesare more productive when the dress code is relaxed, and 80% of people who work in an environment with a dress code responded that they don’t find them useful. Those are pretty staggering statistics. Breaking that down, there are a few reasons people have started to favor a more casual dress code. One of the reasons is the financial burden that comes from a suit-and-tie environment — you’re expected to invest in nice suits, shoes, ties, and dresses. Not everyone can afford to spend thousands of dollars on their workplace attire. Another big reason is comfort and confidence. When people are able to wear the clothes that they’re comfortable and confident in, morale is higher and people aremore productive overall.”

But, not everyone agrees with Rollins’ standpoint. A research report done by Angie Shinn, Ali Swigart, Ashley Gritters and Matt Schmailzl, all students at Central College in Iowa, cited research that had the opposite take of Rollins. According to the report from the Central College students, “According to a survey of over one thousand human resource executives, almost half of the companies with a casual dress-down policy reported a significant increase in tardiness, absenteeism, and flirtatious behavior (Egodigwe & Alleyne, 2003). Another survey concluded that casual dress may lead to a casual work ethic (Peluchette & Karl, 2007, p. 349-350). In contrast, employees who dress formally (i.e. a suit and tie), are considered to have high credibility, are taken more seriously, and are more likely to be viewed as upper management material from top executives (Chaney & Lyden, 1999; Wood & Benitez, 2003).”

Relaxed Dress Code: A Closer Look

Does Dress Code Affect Productivity in the Workplace? (3)

Change, a specialist recruitment consultancy based in Scotland, writes in part, “Many companies view employee appearance as a reflection of the company. According to conventional thinking, strict dress codes (i.e. a suit and tie) conveys a sense of authority, responsibility and trustworthiness. Allowing employees to dress as they see fit also leaves room for ambiguity and some companies worry that employees won’t choose professional apparel. As a result, a casual dress code can seem a bit risky or an unwise move. On the other hand, providing employees with more flexibility, in terms of what they wear, does have some benefits and may be better suited for the modern workplace.”

Change put together the following list of advantages of a “relaxed dress code.”

  • A More Attractive Work Environment
  • Happier Employees
  • More Productive Employees
  • Greater Diversity

Writing forthe The Houston Chronicle, M.T. Wroblewski addressed the pros and cons of relaxed dress codes. Wroblewski’s article from August of 2020 reads in part, “Business owners often hope to reap other dividends from relaxed dress codes in the workplace (or no codes at all),HR Daily Advisorsays. If casual clothing helps employees feel more relaxed, the reasoning goes that they also could:

Feel less stress on the job, leading to greater productivity. (Interestingly, a strong case is made for the contrarian view, too.)

Be more inclined to collaborate with their colleagues.

Register the positive message that their employer trusts them to make good choices, thereby allowing them to express their individuality.

Encourage them to be physically active during their lunch break. This may seem like a minor benefit, but it’s one that can add up: Healthier employers cost an employer less in insurance costs.”

According to Wroblewski, “If your clients and customers are whispering about the casual nature of your employees’ attire, chances are that they are drawing some negative inferences about them, you and your business. Accurate or not, they would have Wilde nodding in agreement:

Employees don’t care about the image they project to others.

They are less serious and professional about their jobs. And if they’re less professional, they may cut corners that matter.

Their casual dress code also becomes their mindset, causing them to be less productive.

They lack a fundamental respect for their employer.

The company they work for takes an equally casual approach to business.

Is a Dress Code Right for Your Business?

Does Dress Code Affect Productivity in the Workplace? (4)

CEO Today Magazine, which has a print and online magazine focused on highlighting the innovation and leadership among business leaders and their organizations, provides helpful context when answering the question of whether a dress code is right for your business.

According to a piece on its website, CEO Today wrote, “Taking a look at the research we’ve found, it’s clear to see that it depends on the employee as to whether they should follow dress code. Each individual is different though. First impressions still, and most likely will, always count. If employees are in a client-facing role, it’s important to look professional and approachable — they are effectively representing the business and should be making it look good. Company bosses should take the opportunity to ask their employees how they feel about uniforms and when they feel most productive. This could be the best indicator of whether a uniform is best for the business or not. As we’ve seen, uniforms can affect behaviour at work and it is down to the individuals as to whether they work best following, or not adhering to, a dress code.”

More Advice

Does Dress Code Affect Productivity in the Workplace? (5)

The research we cited earlier from the Central College students also included a thoughtful list of guideline that we are sharing below:

Guidelines for the Company

  1. Before implementing a new dress policy note the preferences of employees in order to more accurately predict the impact on employees’ attitudes and behaviors.
  2. Ease into changes of the dress code policy. Making a major transition too abruptly could have a negative effect on employee productivity, performance, and budget (Peluchette & Karl, 2007).
  3. Have a set of clearly defined guidelines for dos and don’ts about work place attire (Reddick, 2007).
  4. Make sure employees are aware of the punishment involved in not adhering to the policy.
  5. Be open to feedback from employees, and be able to reasonably explain why policy changes are needed.
  6. Make sure every employee affected by the policy is aware of new expectations. The easiest way is through e-mail, a large group meeting, or an updated employee handbook.
  7. Lead by example (Hanley, 2009).

Guidelines for the Employee

  1. Wear clothes that fit your body type (Kopulos, 2009).
  2. Avoid wearing lowcut, see-through, or formfitting shirts (McCarty, 2010; Kopulos, 2009)
  3. Cover tattoos and remove all body piercings (Kopulos, 2009).
  4. Make sure hair is wellgroomed (Kopulos, 2009).
  5. Remember: less is more. This rule applies for makeup, jewelry, perfume, and cologne (McCarty, 2010; Kopulos, 2009).
  6. Wear shoes that are closed toed with little to no heel, and of neutral color (McCarty, 2010; Kopulos, 2009).
  7. For women, make sure that skirts are no shorter than two inches above the knee (Kopulos, 2009).

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Last updated May 25, 2021

Does Dress Code Affect Productivity in the Workplace? (2024)


Does Dress Code Affect Productivity in the Workplace? ›

Casual Dress For The Win

Can clothing affect people's work quality and productivity in office? ›

More Motivation and Productivity

The way you dress for your job can affect how motivated you are to work and therefore also affect how productive you are. If you look the part, you're more likely to feel the part and will have a greater drive to do what you are supposed to do.

Does dressing up improve productivity? ›

Surprisingly, yes. A study conducted by the University of Notre Dame**** found that individuals who dressed up for remote work not only reported higher levels of productivity but showed a stronger connection to their professional identity.

What are the disadvantages of dress code at work? ›

Here are some of the biggest drawbacks: Discrimination. Dress codes can inadvertently enforce discrimination, especially if applied unfairly. Sexist, racist, and religious divides across clothing may be worsened if a dress code is not applied equally to everyone.

Does dress code in the workplace really matter? ›

Promoting productivity: When all employees dress professionally and have an extra boost of confidence, it can lead to a more motivated and productive team. Making employees easily recognizable: In some companies, instituting a dress code that includes uniforms can help your employees stand out.

Does dress code impact productivity? ›

Casual Dress For The Win

Casual dress wins, the majority of the time. According to studies, 61% of employees are more productive when the dress code is relaxed, and 80% of people who work in an environment with a dress code responded that they don't find them useful. Those are pretty staggering statistics.

Why is dress code not important at work? ›

Cons of professional dress codes

This can lead to employees feeling restricted at work or self-conscious about their appearance. It can also negatively impact a company's culture as people feel disconnected from the organization's values . Over time, employees may begin to feel resentment and discontent at work.

Do clothes matter to our success at work? ›

The results show that when employees felt like they looked good and that their clothing was unique in some way, this resulted in them having higher self-esteem, which itself made them more productive and more likely to hit their goals.

Does dress code really matter? ›

Dress codes aren't right for every business and every employee, however. Overly strict dress codes can negatively impact morale – especially among employees who don't interact with the public, and who may feel having to dress to the nines or wear a name tag is silly or degrading.

Does what you wear affect your performance? ›

Many recent studies reveal, that the clothes you wear have an effect on your performance levels, sense of self as well as the aptitude to negotiate. Formal and well-designed attire boosts your confidence and improves your mental and physical performance dramatically.

Are workplace dress codes outdated? ›

Gone are the days when wearing formal wear was a prerequisite for a day at the office. Many companies today are shifting towards a more casual and comfortable work environment. Employees prefer outfits that help them feel comfortable and confident in their workplace without compromising their professionalism.

Why do people disagree with dress code? ›

There are three big reasons why. Dress codes causes families to waste additional money buying extra clothes. Dress codes can make kids late for school and hurt their grades. Lastly, uniform school clothes can be uncomfortable and make it so students cannot focus.

What not to wear to work dress code? ›

Generally, business casual is not jeans, T-shirts, overly tight or revealing clothing, athletic wear, beach-type clothing, flip flops, hoodies, hats, crop tops, visible undergarments, and torn clothing.

Can you tell an employee to dress more professionally? ›

To address the workplace dress code with an employee, it is important to be direct and clear with your expectations. Explain the policy or changes that have been made, and why they are necessary.

Does dressing up increase productivity? ›

Dressing up for your job, whether you're abiding by a dress code or not, can kickstart your productivity—especially for those who work remotely. “That act of changing from one outfit to another tells your brain that you're changing activities, and switching into a different mindset for a specific task,” Abraham says.

Why do employers like the casual dress code? ›

This is because most people are generally happier in clothes that they feel comfortable in. If employees are not distracted by their clothing, they can focus on getting the utmost satisfaction from their work. Companies with a casual dress code are also known for having a more positive work environment.

How does clothing affect your performance? ›

Clothing plays a crucial role in influencing performance during exercise, workouts, and sports. How performance clothing affects sports and exercise is multifaceted, encompassing factors such as comfort, temperature regulation, moisture management, and overall functionality.

How do clothing choices affect the relationships we form at work or in other business situations? ›

Effect of Clothing Choices on Workplace Relationships:

The attire one chooses communicates non-verbal cues about their personality, professionalism, and even their approachability. A well-dressed individual may be perceived as more competent and confident, fostering positive impressions among colleagues and superiors.

What are two factors that can impact negatively on the productivity of workers? ›

If you want to be sure your employees deliver their personal best, take a close look at your company's environment and stamp out these productivity killers.
  • Lack of big-picture view. ...
  • Poor supervision. ...
  • Poor communication. ...
  • Lack of delegation. ...
  • Inconsistency. ...
  • Weak company culture. ...
  • Inadequate technologies. ...
  • Lack of acknowledgement.

How can inappropriate dressing affect the workplace? ›

The four most common types of workplace dress codes are business formal, business professional, business casual, and casual. It's important to dress appropriately, keep it clean and neat, and avoid offensive clothing. Dress codes can affect employee morale, productivity, and the company's image and reputation.

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