2020 has presented the perfect opportunity to review the corporate workday wardrobe brought on not only by the pandemic but demonstrated by business leaders and exercised by the changing workforce.
Whilst the current COVID-19 pandemic forced changes in the business environment, moving very quickly from an infrastructure focused workplace to outcome focused, it also brought about the opportunity to establish a new normal.
For many, the workplace has become home, or a blended environment working part of the week in the office, part at home. The blended workplace has enabled the opportunity to revise what we wear during working hours, with the inclusion of comfort clothing now considered acceptable for those employees who spend time connected to colleagues, customers and suppliers remotely on platforms such as Zoom.
There has also been a marked relaxation of dress standards by politicians and corporate leaders. The CEO of the Commonwealth Bank was recently interviewed in an open neck shirt demonstrating how much attitudes have shifted during these changing times, even in the often-staid banking environment.
Whilst an adjustment in workplace dress standards commenced prior to COVID-19, particularly in open plan, less formal offices with the shift from business pants and dresses to casual chinos and polos, the changes brought about by the pandemic have completely redefined the workday wardrobe.
However, working from home is not the only reason a re-think in workday apparel is timely. Consideration should also be given to the changing age demographic within the workforce. Fashion trends once set by Baby Boomers altered by Gen X and now driven by Millennials set the tone for workplace fashion of the future. A recent survey by Research Now, conducted on behalf of Randstad, reported 33% of Millennials surveyed responded they would quit their job, or turn down a job offer, if they were required to follow a conservative dress code.
Whilst employers need to set clear dress standards, even whilst working from home, making sure employees feel comfortable must rank highly. Employers can still align employee expectations with the desire to ensure company, brand and customer expectations are upheld. It just requires a slightly different approach and depth of knowledge to blend all expectations successfully.