I was recently asked to offer my thoughts on this question for the Costco Connection Magazine. As a corporate image consultant, I work with industries ranging from accountants to construction to veterinarians. Most of my clients tell me that office wear has become far too casual.
This viewpoint was confirmed in a recent U.S. survey by a leading staffing agency. In it, 47 per cent of senior managers said employees dressed “too casually” and 32 per cent said their workers showed “too much skin.”
Our Credible Business Casual seminar requests spike in the summertime, when employees tend to push the envelope and organizations find themselves casualties of casual wear. It’s not just managers; customers are noticing too.
We work with many financial firms, and recently one of them, a credit union, surveyed their members regarding extending casual Friday wear throughout the week. Forty-five per cent of their members didn’t care, but 55 per cent said they didn’t like it and felt it demonstrated a lack of respect. Surprised by the results, the organization decided to drop the idea.
Your dress, even your casual wear, needs to support your brand. No matter what the industry, we advise our clients to visualize a successful person in their occupation and try to mirror that dress level in their business wear.
To maintain that credibility and brand, casual wear should never be more than one level down from your standard wear. If your standard office wear is a suit, then your casual wear should be a sports jacket. If your standard wear is a jacket, casual wear should be a blouse or shirt with or without tie.
We find that dress affects mood and performance. Studies reported in The Wall Street Journal suggest that dressing up in a suit or blazer improves employee confidence, productivity and success in negotiations, sales and meetings.
We advise people to start an image diary to track what they wear, how they feel about wearing it and how they are listened to by colleagues and customers. You can lose points for being under-dressed in the office, but you will rarely lose points for being overdressed.
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