Money & Business

Is a Casual Dress Code the Benefit Your Staff Wants Most?

By / Sep 4, 2019 (jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

A new survey from Randstad US finds that employees value a casual dress code at work, with more than 30 percent preferring the benefit to an extra $5,000 in salary. How to create a dress code that benefits both your staff and association.

Associations know that good benefits can help reduce turnover and lure new employees, but offering new ones typically means more expenses, which may not be feasible. What if you could provide a benefit at no cost that some employees say they’d turned down extra salary for?

A new survey from Randstad US found that 33 percent of U.S. employees prefer an informal dress code to an extra $5,000 in salary.

“Having a choice in what you can wear to work sparks creativity, boosts confidence and productivity, but it can ultimately improve your company culture,” said Traci Fiatte, CEO of nontechnical staffing at Randstad US. “Our survey found people ultimately just want to be comfortable at work, and casual dress code can be an added work perk that incentivizes your employees to remain loyal to your brand and can be a deciding factor for prospective employees.”

Changing dress code policy could be helpful to those organizations seeking to beef up benefits with minimal extra cost. While the preference for casual dress over additional salary was important, Fiatte noted that the exact dollar values aren’t hard and fast.

“We asked [if they would prefer $5k or a casual dress code] because we wanted to gauge how strongly workers feel about having a relaxed dress code,” Fiatte said. “We can make some guesses as to why [$5k worked for some] or what the true salary number threshold would be, but we don’t have qualitative data that digs in deeper. In reality, people who would actually accept a smaller paycheck to have an informal dress code likely don’t have that benefit in their current place of work.”

If your association is considering making a change, Randstad offers an online guide to help employers create new dress code policies. Fiatte added that while it might be tempting to simply give employees full autonomy, it is important to have a dress code of some type.

“Although it’s super progressive to allow your employees to wear what they want, not following a dress code altogether could set a company up for failure,” she said. “Thirty percent of all workers said that they experience uncertainty over what’s acceptable to wear because their employer’s dress code is unclear. Set expectations on your employee dress code that are clear and easy to remember. The overall goal is a positive work environment, because it helps employees become more productive.”

Generational Differences

One thing the survey noted is that there are generational differences in dress code wants. For example, younger workers wanted to be more avant-garde. “The main differences we noticed is that younger generations use their individualistic style to stand out, especially since now we live in a digital world, their sense of style and dress has more of an impression on them,” Fiatte said. “Younger workers push the boundaries of personal style and dress.”

That being said, one reason some employers are reluctant to move to a relaxed dress code is fear that employees will wear inappropriate attire. However, the Randstad survey found employees have some internal standards, and “most workers feel ripped jeans (73 percent) and leggings (56 percent) are not appropriate workwear.”

Fiatte noted that two generations are pushing the change in workplace wear. “Millennials make up the majority of today’s workforce and Gen Z is right behind them, so it’s no surprise we have loosened up dress codes in the workplace,” she said.

However, employers shouldn’t try to cater to one specific group when looking at dress policy. Instead, they should look at their overall culture. “Companies should cater their dress code to their workplace culture and environment,” she said. “The most important thing is those dress code policies reflect the needs of your employees. Finding that balance is essential to have a more productive and symbiotic culture.”

Does your association have a relaxed dress code, and do you see it as a valuable benefit? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is an associate editor at Associations Now. She covers money and business. Email her with story ideas or news tips. More »

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