Post-COVID office attire: Is it casual Friday every day now?

Insights
May 25, 2022
Working from home has unleashed a trend of working in activewear or even pyjamas.

Many people only put on professional attire (or at least the top half!) for video calls or client meetings. What are the pros and cons of casual post-COVID office attire and what will your policy be?

Before the pandemic, many businesses had ‘casual Fridays’ and others, especially tech companies, had made dressing down a regular policy. Silicon Valley led the charge towards business casual where it is typical to see employees wearing jeans, t-shirts, hoodies and sneakers – with some companies even allowing bare feet!1 

As working from home became widespread, many workers started caring less about ‘dressing for success’ and more about being comfortable. With many choosing tracksuit pants and ugg boots over power suits. 

Today, as workers increasingly return to the office for at least part of the week, and hybrid work practices and flexible hours are becoming the norm, the jury is still out on whether casual dress is a permanent trend. 

A report from the University of Sydney Business School2, predicted that appearance would not be as important going forward, however others thought it was only likely to change in the short-term. 

Will you maintain standards or relax the rules?

To ensure your dress codes match your desired brand, now is a good time to consider what will work best in your business and set some guidelines. Dr Lorinda Cramer, from Australian Catholic University, is doing some research into the social and cultural history or men’s clothing in Australia and says:

“Tracksuit pants and slippers will never be appropriate, but why wouldn’t we take steps to ensure staff are as comfortable as possible? It makes sense to talk about this right now, since the pandemic has paved the way.”3

Here we look at the pros and cons of a casual dress code in the office.

Advantages of a casual dress code

Inspires creativity: 

Dressing more casually gives workers the freedom to express their personal style, and can inspire creativity and individuality. 

Saves money: 

Corporate suits can be expensive and the dry cleaning costs can add up. Casual office attire means you won’t need to buy a whole new set of clothes specifically for the office.

Comfort can boost performance: 

Lululemon recently surveyed 20,000 consumers and found that 81% of respondents said they performed better at work if they felt physically comfortable.4 

Encourages activity: 

Wearing more casual clothes and comfortable walking shoes means it will make it easier for workers to be active in their breaks.

Disadvantages of casual dress

Looks less professional: 

Beyond comfort, you need to think about client expectations. Office attire that is too casual may be perceived as being less professional and may not be on brand with the image you are trying to project.  

Pushing the boundaries: 

There is a risk some employees may take advantage of a more relaxed dress code and wear clothing that others may consider inappropriate. And if you are doing business globally, you’ll need to be aware of cultural differences so you can continue to be respectful to your overseas colleagues. 

Not for everyone: 

Many people enjoy getting dressed up professionally for work and find it improves their performance, especially after months in activewear. Casual dress is also industry specific, with many industries like hospitality, security, health care and trades for example requiring comfortable and identifiable uniforms.   

If post-COVID office attire relaxes, will office design follow suit? 

If the tech companies are anything to go by, the answer is yes. From dog-friendly offices, climbing gyms, cafes and nap rooms to couches, communal tables, luscious plants and soft furnishings, many office layouts, decor and designs are also reflecting the shift in office culture. The Google office in California even has a beach volleyball court!

When looking at office fitout ideas and design trends it is important to keep workers engaged if you want to encourage them back to the office. By trying to make your office fit out as homely and comfortable as possible, you’re sending a strong message that you want your people to be happy in the workplace and you care about their wellbeing. It is a great way to boost morale after what has been a very challenging couple of years. 

Moving your office with the times

Effective office interior design and workspace planning is a delicate balance between meeting the functional needs of your business and budget, while creating comfortable and inspiring spaces for your team to work. Does your office layout and design reflect the culture of your business? 

Whether you are designing a new office fitout from scratch or want to make some changes to your office fitout in Sydney’s CBD and surrounds, we can help you create a productive workspace that suits your people, customers and brand. 

If you have any questions or would like to arrange a discussion about your workplace strategy, please contact us and we’d be happy to help.


References:

  1. Business Insider: Silicon Valley’s newest startup trend? Shoeless office policies. Katie Canales, 9 Dec 2019
  2. The University of Sydney: COVID Casual. Refashioning professional attire in the age of remote working. Dr Briony Lipton and Sulagna Basu 
  3. CPA Australia, Intheblack: The new look of workplace dress codes. Chris Sheedy, 1 July 2021
  4. Retail Insider: Lululemon Commissions Study on How Clothing Impacts Workplaces. 27 September 2021

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