Smarten Up (Please) – Remote workers being told to smarten up

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  • 55% of bosses think remote workers should dress more smartly on video calls
  • 48% of employers said they were considering a formal dress code for hybrid work
  • Sportswear and untidy backgrounds voted bosses biggest issues
  • 89% of employees said “absolutely not” to formal dress codes for remote work
  • 42% of employees said a formal dress code would cause them to look for a new job

The concept of the hybrid workplace seems to be a happy compromise that bosses are now keen to embrace post lockdown, however, it seems British workers might need to start to smarten up their appearances according to our findings.

Our poll of 120 employers and 1500 hybrid workers across the UK, tells us the next workplace battle is looming.

What do British bosses think?

We found that over half of British bosses think that their staff should be dressing more smartly when working from home. It seems in a post lockdown work environment what was acceptable then, is now no longer an excuse for low professional standards of appearance.

Employers:

QuestionYesNoUnsure
Do you think staff who work from home are dressed too casually for representing your business post lockdown?552124
Do you think staff who work from home should dress smarter?651817
Are you considering a formal dress code for remote work staff?48457
Would you consider providing staff branded attire to promote a consistent dress standard for your business?71218

Employers, when asked, said overwhelmingly (65 percent) that staff should be dressing smarter when working from home. Also, almost half of employers feel so strongly about the subject that they would be prepared to consider a formal dress code for remote staff to adhere to. However, it seems bosses might be looking to calm the waters somewhat on this topic as over seventy percent said they would consider providing staff branded clothing to ensure consistency and fairness with staff working from home

“What’s clear from this topic, from an employers perspective at least, is that things have changed and it looks to be permanent. Hybrid work where the week is split between the office and working from home is now widely considered to be the new normal. But with that, some employees seem to have carried over some lockdown attitudes towards dressing professionally that simply don’t seem appropriate anymore. We’re not forced to work remotely now, it is a benefit, so British bosses are possibly not wrong to be asking workers to present themselves a bit smarter now” says Johnny Ratcliffe from Offices.co.uk.

On the topic of what clothing employers are objecting to now, it seems Jeans are perfectly fine with almost ninety percent of bosses in agreement that these were okay. However, with most people sitting behind a desk when visible to a camera, it seems this might be a red herring of sorts.

QuestionYesNoUnsure
Are the following clothing appropriate for work?:
Jeans8758
Chords9019
Trousers9802
Shorts214831
dresses/skirts*9802
Sports wear12817
yoga/gym gear5905
Torn or frayed garments215227
Branded shirts/tees (non corporate)34579
Branded Hoodies (non corporate)184735
Hats (non corporate)122860

However, what seems to have wide agreement with bosses on what’s unacceptable to wear is sportswear, yoga/gym wear and heavily branded garments from popular fashion brands.

We also asked bosses about video calls and how they feel about their employee’s home working environments and also whether it’s okay to hide with video off. 

QuestionYesNoUnsure
Would you like staff when working remotely to have a more professional background?81910
Would you like staff when working remotely to always be visible on video call?621226

It’s quite evident from these specific questions with eighty percent of bosses in agreement, that they are wanting hybrid workers to present themselves as consistently at home, as they would in the physical office. Furthermore, bosses seem to be quite critical of employee’s hiding behind their screens on video calls with their cameras off. Whilst most people will agree they’ve probably felt or looked not quite their best in recent times, it seems bosses are becoming weary of working from home being an excuse to visibly hide from their colleagues.

But what do workers think?

In order to balance this conversation, we also made sure to ask workers how they felt about smartening up. The results are, not surprisingly, going to make this a difficult subject to broach with their workers. 

That said, it does appear workers are conscious of this issue with just over one third admitting they have a special piece of clothing they put on before video calls to try to look more presentable. 

Employees:

QuestionYesNoUnsure
Do you feel post lockdown, there is no need to dress smartly at work anymore?64324
Do you dress differently for working in the office versus working at home?532819
Do you have a special top/clothing you put on before video calls?35587
Would you be angry/offended if your employer told you to dress smarter?89110
Would you look to leave your current job if they introduced a strict dress code for remote working?42517

However bosses need to tread carefully because nearly ninety percent of staff said they would be offended if asked to dress smarter and even almost forty percent of staff saying it could cause them to seek alternative employment.

Johnny Ratcliffe, MD of Offices.co.uk further commented: “To be fair to British office workers right now, since the pandemic hit, the British high street has undergone some major changes with the likes of TM Lewin going into administration in the last week for the second time, and also major chains such as Marks & Spencer removing most of their work and formal wear from all but select stores, so it is actually harder to dress smarter for most, even if they wanted to. That said, with almost two thirds of workers agreeing there is no need to dress smartly for work anymore, it seems the suits might have a different opinion.”

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Posted by Jonathan Ratcliffe, Tuesday 26th April 2022

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