Work Policies
Good Policies

Casual Dress Code

Establishing a casual dress code is an inexpensive way to improve the morale of employees. The casual dress code is appreciated by most employees in its own right, but it also serves as a symbol of management's attitude toward meeting employee needs.

There is one strong argument against casual clothing at work, and it only applies to specific employees. Certainly, employees with client contact should wear business attire, as should those who can be seen by clients in the course of everyday business. Casual dress codes only should apply to employees who cannot be seen, or who rarely are seen, by clients. Professionalism is paramount when it comes to client contact.

It is difficult to find a strong argument in favor of non-client-contact personnel being forced to wear formal business attire. The success of companies such as Microsoft, who have casual dress codes, shows that formal dress is not necessary for success.

If management allows casual attire, it may be viewed as being more caring about employees. Allowing employees to wear casual attire at work may send one or more of the following signals to employees:

  • Flexibility on the part of management,
  • A willingness to do things the "new way,"
  • Management does not seek to "control" employees,
  • There is a system of promotion in place that does not favor those who have had the good fortune to be born in the more affluent classes.

This last point may be somewhat less obvious than the first three. By allowing employees to wear casual attire, management signals that one's social status is not a factor in promotions. Proper business dress is an acquired (and expensive) skill; one that is more easily acquired if one has an upper class background. Casual clothing becomes an equalizer in this regard.

Management may be shooting itself in the foot by not allowing casual attire. We are beginning to encounter quality people who say they will refuse to apply for a job at a company that does not allow casual clothing to be worn. Such employees may gravitate toward a firm's competitors, potentially placing the firm at a competitive disadvantage.

If you know of an employee relations policy that works, please e-mail us at for publication on this site. Let us know whether to include your name or company, or a link to your company's site. We'll assume you want to remain anonymous unless you tell us otherwise.