You don’t have to look very far to see that human beings can be a little obsessed with the clothes we wear! Thousands of fashion magazines, blogs, popular TV makeover and design shows are a testament to that. And it’s perfectly understandable too, because the clothes you choose to wear are your first chance to make the kind of impression you want to strangers and friends alike.
Clothes are certainly an important form of self-expression, but in the workplace, they become an opportunity for the business as a whole to express itself. First impressions count, and when you’re trying to build a brand that comes across as professional, having your employees dress appropriately when they interact with potential and existing clients can make an enormous difference.
Here’s why dress code matters so much psychologically, and how you can use it to your competitive advantage!
Dress codes help create unity among employees:
While the use of uniforms in a retail industry such as a grocery store chain, or service-focused industry like the post office, police force or bank is obvious, having a set dress code for your office can serve a similar purpose. Feeling like part of a group or having a sense of belonging is important to people, and having clearly defined standards of dress can help your employees achieve just this. Allowing employees to take part in casual Fridays, for example, can help to bolster this sense of belonging, while giving a bit of room for self-expression too – if it’s appropriate for your industry, of course!
Your dress code can help establish your brand identity:
Remember that a dress code doesn’t always have to be formal. In younger firms and especially new tech companies, a casual dress code can make your brand seem more approachable and ‘human’. In this way, dress code becomes a valuable tool for giving the public insight into what your brand stands for and how you’d like to be viewed by them, whether that’s as highly professional and serious about their clients, or friendly and easy to approach with questions or concerns.
What you wear affects your behavior:
It’s been pretty well documented that people will exercise harder and for longer if they’re wearing particularly sporty clothes. This is because what you’re wearing, and therefore the image you’re projecting, has a subconscious effect on how you expect yourself to behave. Smart and sophisticated corporate wear can achieve the same effect in the workplace. If an employee feels like they’re exuding professionalism, skill and competence, their performance is likely to follow suit!
So how do you choose the right dress code for your employees and navigate the sometimes tricky realm of enforcing the standards you’ve set?
What are you trying to say?
If you’re a small company trying to expand and grow, it follows that your employees present a smart and serious image. Just as we tell individuals to dress for the job they want, not the job they have, your business can use the same tactic. This is especially important for employees who deal with current and potential clients. If the client is greeted by someone who looks neat, well-groomed and professional, you’ve already created the impression that you take their business seriously and know what you’re doing.
If on the other hand you deal with a sensitive industry like debt counseling or personal health issues, presenting a more informal and approachable look might actually be a better option. Just like personal style, work dress code is a highly individual area, so it can be worth getting some outside opinions and even involving your staff in the decision.
Make sure your dress code is clearly defined and easy to follow:
‘Business casual’ can mean a lot of things, so trying to get your employees to stick to your vision with just one phrase often isn’t enough. Do you expect your male employees to wear suits? What about ties? When outlining the dress code you expect, give specific details so your employees know exactly what’s expected of them. Including images can feel a little patronizing, but you can make it fun by including a few humorous ‘don’ts’ as well!
Lead by example:
You can’t expect your staff to follow the rules if you don’t. Set the standard yourself and stick to it so they are reminded of exactly what is expected of them. The same goes for supervisors, department leaders and HR staff. You’re the face of the company, so dress to impress!