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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, May 20, 2018 1:00 am

Though relaxed, workplace attire significant

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Two of the dozens of emails that landed in my inbox last Monday touched on workplace dress, but with slightly different messages.

Results of a new OfficeTeam survey showed 86 percent of workers and 80 percent of managers said clothing choices affect a person's chances of earning a promotion.

“The data comes just as the weather is warming up – a time when many professionals relax their dress code a bit too much during the summer months,” the news release said.

But a report from Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a Chicago-area outplacement and executive coaching firm, said more companies are considering relaxing dress codes, particularly in a tight job market.

OfficeTeam is part of the Robert Half company, a leading staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of skilled office and administrative support professionals.

Its workplace dress survey also showed:

• Professionals spend an average of 11 minutes a day choosing office attire, and 67 percent keep a separate work wardrobe.

• Items more acceptable to wear to work now than five years ago: Jeans, tennis shoes and leggings

• Items less acceptable than five years ago: Tank tops, “cold shoulder tops” and shorts

• 44 percent of managers have talked to an employee about inappropriate attire; 32 percent have sent workers home based on what they were wearing.

“Dressing professionally establishes credibility and helps others envision you in a role with greater responsibility,” Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam, said in a statement. “While many organizations have relaxed their dress codes, especially for warmer months, employees shouldn't assume casual attire or the latest fashion trends are OK for the office.

“It's always a good idea to follow company policies and observe what colleagues in more senior positions typically wear.”

OfficeTeam worked with independent research firms to survey two populations: professionals and managers. Survey results are based on responses from more than 1,000 U.S. workers age 18 or older and employed in office environments, and more than 300 senior managers and 300 human resources managers at U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.

The startup culture and the work-from-home trend are among reasons some companies have started to relax dress standards, said Andrew Challenger, a vice president with Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Relaxed dress at work was inspired by the Silicon Valley dot-com boom that began in the 1980s, the firm said. Long work hours also led employers to become more lenient.

“There are some definite positives to shifting to a more casual dress code for companies,” Andrew Challenger said in a news release. “Employees will feel like you trust them, which will likely lead to greater job satisfaction and retention.”

But he also noted the importance of considering company culture and your role. Employees should want to show the “best version” of themselves, which could impress co-workers and customers, along with signaling to “higher-ups that you value your work” and may be ready for promotion.

CEO exits up

Challenger, Gray & Christmas also tracks employment data, including for executives.

In a separate release this month, the firm said that although the economy added 164,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate edged down to 3.9 percent, a total of 109 chief executive officers left their posts at U.S. companies during the month.

Last month's total is 19.8 percent higher than the 91 CEOs who left their posts in April 2017 and 13.5 percent higher than the 96 tracked in March, the firm said.

So far this year, 450 CEO changes have been announced. That's 14.8 percent higher than the 392 CEO changes tracked in the first four months of last year. It's the highest January-April total since 2014 when 460 CEOs left their posts.

“Although the economy seems to be booming,”  Challenger, the firm's vice president said in a statement, “companies appear to be readying for change.”

To share a thought, favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at lisagreen@jg.net. Lead On also appears as a blog at www.journalgazette.net/blog/lead-on/.