Office Dress Codes Post-Pandemic: 5 Tips for Employers

Office Dress Code Post-Pandemic: 5 Tips for Employers

The health and safety of all workers—whether on the front lines since the start of the pandemic, already back at the office or planning to return this fall—should continue to be the top priority for employers as we navigate the future of work. That being said, this blog post is on a trivial topic; however, it’s something that’s come up in almost every return-to-workplace conversation I’ve had lately: What will I wear? Will yoga pants Fridays be the new jeans Fridays?

In addition to installing extra hand sanitizers, adjusting common spaces and reworking cubicle arrangements, a dress code policy is something to review as employers plan for the future of their workplace.

I made a chart below to track the history of corporations offering a casual (think jeans and sneaks—”workleisure”) dress code for the entire week. As you can see, the percentage rose from 19% in 2014 to 33% in 2020 when we most recently asked employers about this offering. This is from the 2020 Employee Benefits Survey.

Percent of Employers Offering Casual Dress Code
Source: Employee Benefits Survey: 2020 Results

Casual dress codes trending upward combined with the soft pants employees have grown accustomed to wearing for the past 18 months and don’t want to part with . . . What’s an employer to do? Take a look at the tips below as a starting point:

  1. One size doesn’t (literally) fit all. What works for one organization might not work for yours. Are people from outside the company making their way through the office frequenly? Then maybe everyone feels more confident and professional in business casual dress. On the contrary, perhaps “workleisure” attire makes most employees happier and more productive. One solution: Survey employees. There might be a clear answer in the results.
  2. Just like a great spandex blend, flexibility is key. As more workplaces embrace a hybrid work arrangement for employees, the same concept will apply to the dress code. Employers are finding that functionality and productivity don’t always translate to sitting in an office chair all day while wearing a suit and tie.
  3. DEI is always in style. Dress codes are an often overlooked part of creating a diverse and inclusive environment. Your dress code should take into consideration employees with disabilities, allow a variety of hairstyles, not restrict cultural or religious dress, and be written in terms that don’t target a specific gender.
  4. Keep it legal. And we’re not talking socks-with-sandals fashion crimes. Before establishing dress code requirements that prohibit all tattoos and piercings, for example, employers should determine whether their prohibitions run contrary to state or federal law. Here’s a handy guide.
  5. Try it on for size. You can always implement a casual dress code trial period. If it doesn’t quite work with your company culture or something is feeling off, tweak as needed. 

[Related Reading: Will Employers Rethink At-Work Perks With the Return to the Office?]

Anne Patterson
Marketing Communications Manager

Art & Science of Health Promotion Conference

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