How Dress Codes Can Stifle Employee Engagement

2 min read
Apr 24, 2017


More companies are doing away with dress codes or loosening them considerably. Even in businesses that frequently interact with a longstanding tradition of formal attire — like law and finance — dress codes are less rigid than in the past.

Take the example of finance stalwart JPMorgan, which recently circulated a memo stating that business casual would be acceptable dress in most situations.

While research on the effects of dress codes often has contradictory results, the trend is toward loosening dress codes. This is because they may stifle creativity, make employees less comfortable, and reflect outdated notions of gender and class. 

In other words, when dress codes are enforced, employee engagement tends to take a hit.


Focus on Performance, not Formality

Research demonstrates employees are more productive working from home where they’re much more likely to be wearing bathrobes or yoga pants or old T-shirts.

One thing’s for sure: remote workers aren’t dressing for success, and it makes no difference. Some leaders are saying that what matters is productivity, innovative ideas, and work ethic — not what you wear.

“I could not care less [about what employees wear],” Managing Director of ROYCE New York Monogramming & Leather Goods William Bauer wrote in Entrepreneur. “We prefer authenticity. As a matter of fact, we encourage creativity and individuality. It may begin with choice of garments, but ultimately it leads to employees feeling more empowered to bring ideas to me because they feel accepted for their choices, rather than denigrated or compelled to be something they are not.”

 employee engagement



The Dress Code of the Future Is No Dress Code

With the job market becoming more competitive, employers are looking for ways to distinguish themselves. Doing away with a strict dress code is a cost-effective benefit. Who wants to sweat it out in a three-piece suit or wear punishing high heels? This small perk has a big effect especially among millennials, who tend to have little affinity for this old-fashioned practice.

But the reality is most workers, regardless of generation, want to do away with formal dress codes. The Los Angeles Times reported that 58% of employees surveyed said they would prefer a business casual or casual dress code for their workplace. 

employee engagement



Some industries will no doubt hang on to their dress codes. Hospitality, for example, will likely keep requirements for employees to appear in uniform because employees are constantly interacting with the public.

But for many industries, the old habit of dressing up just because you’re supposed to is fading away. More organizations are allowing their adult workers to decide what appropriate dress is. Maybe you should too.




2017 Employee Engagement Report

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