Dress code policy: advantages, tips, types and examples
Updated 16 January 2023
A dress code is an integral part of a company's image. Many companies have a set of guidelines so their employees know what suitable work attire is, also known as a dress code policy. Having a clearly defined policy helps organisations ensure employees represent the company well in meetings and customer and client interaction. In this article, we explain what it is, answer some common questions on dress codes and include an example of a policy you can use to create your own.
What is a dress code policy?
It is a set of guidelines that specifies what a company deems suitable for work attire. It creates an expectation for the image that the company wants to portray. Dress codes are more important in businesses that involve face-to-face interaction with clients or customers.
Advantages of having a dress code policy
There are several benefits for instituting such a policy:
Lessening any concern over employee attire: if you have a clear policy, your employees have a better understanding of what they can wear to work and how to choose appropriate outfits.
Impressing clients: if you run a business that involves a lot of customer interaction, a dress code policy helps to make sure that when customers meet any of your employees, the employees are accurately reflecting the nature of the company and are making a good visual impression.
Promoting inclusiveness and equality: having a clearly defined dress code policy that sets out what the company expects of its staff in terms of appearance can also promote inclusiveness and equality and eliminate any competitiveness overlooking the most stylish or fashionable.
Tips to determine if your company could benefit from such a policy
Here are a few tips to consider if you're determining whether to implement a dress code:
Your staff meets with clients or customers: if you run a business where your employees often meet with clients and customers, you may want to implement a dress code to ensure your employees appear professional and welcoming.
Health and safety concern: if health and safety is a potential concern, for example, if your employees work in an environment where accidents are more likely to occur or their role can be more labour intensive, it may be useful to implement a dress code that outlines what protective clothing employees can wear.
There may be a lack of clarity regarding the appropriate work attire: if you find your employees are coming to work inappropriately dressed or you've received a customer complaint, then you may wish to introduce a clear dress code policy for staff to adhere to. Discuss what changes to make with your staff.
Typical workplace dress codes
There are four types of common dress code policies that different organisations may adopt. Some organisations don't have a well-defined dress code policy. Instead, they let their staff know what the dress code is and they are responsible for knowing what that necessitates. The four common company dress codes are:
Business formal is more often found in traditional industry roles, which involve a lot of high-level meetings. This dress code typically entails being dressing in a tailored suit or a skirt and blazer with a white shirt. Suits are typically in neutral colours such as black, grey, navy or other neutral shades. Typically, a tie can be worn for a more formal look. In terms of footwear, women may opt for a pair of closed-toe, heeled or flat shoes, while men traditionally opt to wear a pair of Oxford-style shoes.
Business-professional attire is slightly more casual than business formal, while still being traditional. If the dress code at a company is business professional, this usually means that you're required to wear a suit or a skirt with a shirt or blouse and a jacket. You can choose to wear smart dress trousers and a jacket or blazer instead of a full suit.
There is room for a little more variety in this dress code as you can choose from a wider range of colours for shirts, blouses and ties. It also allows room to wear more accessories. In terms of footwear, both men and women wear closed-toe shoes and can choose to wear a pair of smart shoes such as Oxfords, loafers or high heels.
Business casual is becoming the norm in many workplaces. The definition of business casual depends on your workplace. It typically involves wearing smart trousers or chinos with a shirt. You may wear a jumper over your shirt, or it can be paired with a jacket. Blouses with no collar or comfortable dresses are usually welcome. Business casual also allows for the incorporation of more colour while still being business wear, but be mindful of wearing wild patterns or bold statements that the company may prohibit in the guidelines. You may opt for wearing more comfortable shoes, though closed-toe shoes are preferable.
A casual dress code is the most relaxed and you may find this more often in start-ups and in creative industries. There is a lot of freedom with this dress code and you may wear jeans and patterned clothes if you wish. There is also more freedom in terms of footwear. You can wear a pair of trainers or open-toe shoes, though usually not sandals. A company that employs a casual dress code may require staff to adopt a business casual or even business professional style of dress on days when they have important client meetings.
Dress code policy examples
Here are some dress code policies for different kinds of environments that you can adapt for use in your own organisation:
'As our company regularly experiences visits from clients, customers and consultants, we expect our employees to dress appropriately in business attire. Appropriate attire includes suits or a smart jacket and trousers, skirts with a jacket or a trouser suit that is in fitting with the business environment. All team members use good judgement in evaluating their attire'.
'As we frequently encounter customers and because the quality of these interactions impacts how our customers feel about our organisation, we expect our team to dress appropriately in business casual attire. Examples of business attire are polo shirts, chinos, blouses or jumpers, skirts and dress trousers. We expect all employees to use good judgement when deciding whether the attire they wear to work is appropriate'.
'At [company name], we encourage our employees to dress comfortably in casual attire. Employees use their best judgement to dress with professionalism and not wear anything that would make other employees uncomfortable. Please wear clothing with no profanities or distracting or revealing designs. Our goal is to promote an inclusive environment for all employees'.
Frequently asked questions about dress code policies
Here are some frequently asked questions about dress code policies:
Why is a dress code policy important?
Dress codes reflect the culture of a company. In some cases, it lets the customer know that the employee is a member of your business. When employees wear a uniform, it makes staff members easy to identify. Irrespective of the profession or industry, dress codes create an atmosphere of professionalism.
What is an appropriate dress code for the workplace?
It depends on the type of company you work for and what is considered appropriate dress attire. These factors may include company, industry, business environment and organisational culture. Employers, in general, want employees to look professional in the workplace. Even in circumstances where the company dress code is casual, presentation is key.
How do you announce a dress code?
The company can announce a dress code to employees in a variety of ways. You may choose to communicate it through an all-staff e-mail, newsletter or posters in the staff areas. Regardless of the method of communication you choose, make sure you share any changes clearly and directly so you don't catch employees off guard with the new policy.
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