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And our company dress code policy isn’t helping.

Employees aren’t sure if wearing a tank top and sandals during hot summer weather to the office on Casual Friday is acceptable — so much so that they want to do away with the casual dress tradition entirely.

Nearly half (48 percent) of workers would prefer to have an assigned uniform for the office to avoid confusion, says a study from staffing firm OfficeTeam.

Though more employees (56 percent) prefer relaxed work attire, 41 percent still on occasion are unsure what they want to wear to work will be appropriate.

“As work attire skews more casual, the rules about acceptable office wear aren’t always clear-cut,” says Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam. “Besides following official company policies, employees should pay attention to the wardrobes of managers and colleagues. If you’re uncertain about whether it’s OK to wear something to work, it’s best to play it safe by skipping it.”

Traditional work attire is changing

Companies worldwide have been easing up on dress code restrictions. Data shows an increase in companies straying away from having their employees wear formal dress clothing to work.

A study done by OfficeTeam last year revealed that half of managers said their employees wore less formal clothes than they did 5 years prior to the study. Nearly a third (31 percent) of employees said they would prefer to work at a company with a business casual dress code, and 27 percent said they preferred a casual dress code, or no dress code at all.

The Society of Human Resources Management’s 2015 Employee Benefits Survey showed most companies (62 percent) allowed casual dress wear once per week, and 36 percent said they allowed it everyday. Compared to 2014 when companies were surveyed, and 56 percent and 32 percent replied the same, respectively.

According to a survey from LinkedIn, 88 percent of employees say they no longer need to wear a suit or formal dress to the office.

Despite that, there is still confusion on what can be worn. Forty-eight percent said they have different wardrobes for work and leisure, showing just because work clothing is less formal, doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all to wear whatever we please.

“Employees should take their cues from company guidelines and what others in the office are wearing. Some industries, for example, are more formal than others,” says Britton. “A casual dress code doesn’t mean that anything goes. Staff should always look professional and project an image that reflects positively on the business.”

Do jobs need dress codes?

Though confusion of acceptable casual office attire may be the reason more employees say they’d rather wear a uniform, research suggests that dress codes aren’t useful at work.

A 2017 study of 1,000 adults from Stormline gear on workers’ future career plans revealed 61 percent of job seekers will have a negative perception of a company that enforces a dress code. Eight in 10 responded that a dress code wasn’t useful at all, and almost two-thirds (61 percent) said they’d be more productive if they were allowed to wear what they wanted.

“Uniforms and workwear that protect the wearer or help them be identified have obvious utility, but I don’t see the point in asking someone to wear a tie around their neck or to specify the color of their shoes,” says University of Manchester professor Cary Cooper.

“Employers should trust their people enough to let them dress how they please,” he adds. “They may wish to advise on items they don’t want to see in the office, but to specify what they must wear is highly patronizing.”

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Joe Pye

Joe Pye

Associate editor

Pye is the associate editor of



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