Listen to the podcast here:
In the past, there were strict guidelines about how people should dress for work, but in recent times dress codes seem to have been relaxed.
Is this a positive or negative development?
Modern workplaces have undergone considerable change in the last few years with many employers focusing more on the quality of service and customer care than on appearances. Although it goes without saying that employers should prioritise the quality of their staff’s performance, I think that dressing smartly at work is essential and I will outline my reasons below.
The main reason why employers need to maintain formal dress codes is because casual clothes can give a bad first impression of the company, whereas formal clothes convey an image of respectability, authority and trustworthiness, qualities which are important in so many professions that involve face-to-face interaction with members of the public. One illustration of this is in the banking sector. It is the responsibility of a manager to ensure that customers feel confident that their money is in safe hands. A smart suit suggests that if the staff care about their appearance then they will take care of your investment too.
On the other hand, just because someone dresses well, it does not mean that they are good at their job, and vice versa. In my workplace for example, the best teachers are often the ones who care more about how to teach well than how to dress well, and their students never seem to notice what they are wearing. There are also many creative professions where trendy clothes convey a sense of style and individuality, which is very desirable in many companies.
To conclude, an employee’s ability to perform well in their job has to be the highest priority in any profession. However, the need to dress smartly and appropriately should also be an important consideration in many workplaces. Personally, if I was paying large amounts of money to a teacher in flip-flops who looked as if they had just got up, I would have serious concerns about that person’s attitude towards their work and their ability to teach me effectively.
Reasons in favour of strict work dress codes
Professional appearances and branding.
Front-facing employees should dress to inspire confidence and give an image of competence in the field. Even among doctors and dentists with private clinics for example, laboratory coats are expected. Most people judge others by the way they look.
It increases productivity.
Studies have shown that smart work clothes/how we dress can make us more productive.
It encourages team spirit [‘esprit de corps’].
Those who belong to groups with uniforms or similar standard pieces of clothing tend to strongly identify with them. Uniformed organizations such as certain sports teams and the military are noted for having a team spirit.
It ensures safety
There are many contexts where work dress codes have to be dictated by the job. In cases where employee safety and insurance requirements are a concern, a dress code is definitely necessary.
Reasons against strict work dress codes
It might stifle creativity.
The same psychological priming discussed earlier can also work for creative employees when they are allowed to dress more freely.
Even employees in less conventionally creative fields may also find that they prefer a looser dress code to perform at their best.
It may make employees LESS productive.
If the dress code is inappropriate for the climate, impractical for daily use, uncomfortable, or difficult to adhere to, you and employees might not be as productive as they would be in more comfortable clothing.
It may create resentment
In many cases, employees don’t see a point to their dress codes, either because management did not communicate the purpose of the dress code, or simply because it doesn’t serve a practical purpose.
Need more help with ideas for IELTS essays?
The Vocabulary Course in the Members Academy has a section on each topic which includes an Task 1, Task 2, video, key word list, Listening, Reading and Speaking practice plus a well-chosen link to extra resources.