POLICY FROM MANAGEMENT: “WEAR CLOTHES TO WORK. THANK YOU.”
As the pandemic continues, so does the need for more structured guidance for your ever-growing remote workforce. Dressing down with all-day lounge wear, gym wear and pajamas is becoming a new norm for home office attire as the pandemic rolls into months of not reporting to a formal office environment.
Why is this an issue?
A new survey from CouponFollow indicates that “business professional, business casual, and smart casual dressers all reported higher levels of productivity than those who dressed in gym clothes and pajamas. Roughly 80% of the more formal dressers said they felt productive throughout the day, compared to just 70% of those in gym clothes and 50% of those in pajamas.”
Promoting Corporate Culture at Home
Maintaining a corporate image is still important in a remote setting as videoconferencing has risen dramatically for internal team collaboration, as well as for external sales and building client rapport. The video conferencing industry is reporting that 77% of businesses are using online video communication for their remote workforce and it is predicted to continue to increase steadily through 2022, according to a report from GetVOIP. Businesses have discovered they are cutting overhead — time and travel costs — through video communication.
Without a policy addressing video communication etiquette, organizations will struggle at projecting professionalism across their remote workforce. A recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) article interviewed several employment attorneys who cite their concerns. “Before COVID-19, a work-from-home dress-code policy would have seemed like a strange concept,” said Megan Toth, an attorney with Seyfarth in Chicago. “But, with the recent increase of remote workers and video-conferences, this has become a real issue for some employers.”
Here are a few key recommendations in rolling out a revised dress code and video conferencing policy for your remote workforce:
- Promote remote working as a benefit that allows for hours and standard dress code flexibility as long as performance deadlines are being met. Be clear about expectations for attendance and professional presentation for virtual meetings.
- Create a remote work policy addendum to your employee handbook which includes standards for home office space, technology, Wi-Fi and mobile device protocols, availability expectations, and dress code options;
- Consider a video-conferencing policy that addresses camera use etiquette including beverage and food consumption, parameters for background settings, and professional attire and grooming. Include safety language for accessing virtual “meetings” on the road and limiting outside distractions while conducting both internal and external calls.
- Ask employees to use common sense when representing your organization via video chat. Taking a video call by the pool in a swimsuit and sunglasses, while sipping a frozen drink may not align with the corporate image you want to project to the outside world.
- Rethink gender neutrality when adopting organizational work attire. Does your current dress code policy contain different standards for men vs. women? Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, and courts have ruled that gender specific limitations for dress codes and grooming standards where one sex imposes a greater burden is discriminatory.
- Adopt language to align with your organizational mission and vision for the wearing of clothing and accessories that openly express political or social justice views. A lot of companies are adopting policies banning this type of attire in the workplace promoting inclusivity and safe work environments.
- Enforce these policies, along with other remote work structures, fairly and consistently across your workforce to limit liability of discrimination.
“Nearly 52% of employees working remotely indicate their companies have asked them to abide by a dress code policy” according to CouponFollow. A recent Gallup poll article states “the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the trend toward remote work and has made companies’ policies toward it even more crucial to their success.”
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This article does not constitute legal advice and there are subtle variations in employment law as it pertains to this topic, depending on where your business operates. It is strongly suggested that you seek consultation or legal counsel before making decisions about policies.