C-Suite Network™

How the Dress Code Affects Your Bottom Line

I predict 2022 will be the bridge year from traditional business wear and strict dress codes to multi-purpose attire that exudes individual expression that impacts both corporate and personal brands. Dressing to express will far outweigh dressing to impress.


The office dress code died in 2016. But many organizations still hold firm onto the belief that for you to be seen as professional and for you to be productive, that it must be done in business attire. The pandemic proved that many people – although not everyone – can be just as productive, and maybe even more so, while working in sweats and athleisure.


I tell all my clients there are consequences to everything you do, say, and wear. Our overall appearance expresses how formal we are to how casual we are. It can portray bold, artistic, individualistic, nurturing, or even careless personas and even says something about our decision-making skills. Clothing also affects us internally. It affects our mood and our mindset. This will come through in how you interact with others that day and how you approach the tasks at hand. Clothing also affects your money. You could be leaving money on the table with how you are showing up.


Some people are very formal and traditional by nature. They feel better and are more productive in traditional business clothing. Some people are more casual and laid back. They feel better in looser silhouettes that are comfortable. They are more effective and at home in this type of clothing. If you put either group in the opposite’s clothing style, you will find they simply will not perform at their optimum level.


As mentioned, being productive in casual clothing didn’t hold true for everyone during the pandemic. I, for one, still dressed up every day. Doing so made me feel better. I found I was more productive. But who I am at my core is someone who enjoys expressing themselves through colorful and creative clothing. I enjoy dressing up. Understand that clothing is used by others as visual data to gain insights into who you are as a person, what type of company or industry we represent, and how we will approach the day’s tasks.


So, where does that leave us? Do we really need a dress code for our organization to be successful? Does a dress code limit productivity and throw functionality out the window? Human Resource professionals and CEOs are grappling to figure out what to do about a dress code to bring people back into the office. Dress codes used to be a way to create harmony in how an organization portrayed itself. Most often, though, organizations have dress codes just to have dress codes.


The organization’s human side is just as important as the data and financials. In fact, it is more important because that is what brings in business and who does the work. Investing in human capital will produce a more significant ROI than what you might expect. Productivity increases when people are given the flexibility to dress for the day. Culture is affected positively. Allowing employees the freedom to express themselves increases creativity.


As organizations look for ways to stand out in their industry, one of the top concerns is attracting and retaining talent. Your office dress code will undoubtedly be part of their decision, especially during the Great Resignation. Flexibility and freedom to express are top motivators.


Businesses will need to weigh their dress codes’ effect on culture and brand. Some will adhere to the dress code of the past at the risk of being seen as archaic. Other companies will embrace leniency in their dress code, entrusting their employees to make smart choices for their workday. The risk is losing authority. There is never a one-size-fits-all. An organization must ask itself when deciding on an office dress code whether what the employees wear strengthens or weakens the perception of the company’s brand; in turn, the same holds true for those individuals’ personal brands. Because in the end, I believe personal brands are a large part of what makes a solid corporate brand.


Want to your personal image or your company’s dress standards to meet the value of your brand, contact me at sheila@imagepowerplay.com or 605.310.7166 to schedule a 30-minute call to discuss how we can work together to grow your influence through my return on image® services. To learn more, visit: www.imagepowerplay.com

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