Does Your Business Need a Summer Dress Code?
In summertime the pace slows down, life gets a little more casual, and your employees may reflect that in their warm-weather wardrobes. If you're concerned that the staff looks more like they are attending a backyard barbecue than working in a place of serious business, you may need to institute a dress code.
"Every business should have, at the very least, some written dress code in their employee handbook or policy manual so that employees know what is not to be worn more so than what can be worn," says Scott Soder, CEO and owner of PayMetrix HR and StaffMetrix HR in suburban Atlanta. "A good example is ours states that jeans are permissible but are not to be torn and tattered. No open-toed shoes are allowed, and shorts are permissible, but no cut-offs. Spaghetti-strap shirts and dresses are not allowed. We do state that we would like our employees to wear comfortable clothing that does not jeopardize their safety. On days when we have clients coming to our office we do ask everyone to dress in business casual attire," Soder says.
"Businesses definitely need dress codes, especially in the summer, otherwise employees will come in to work wearing shorts and flip-flops or extremely low
tank tops, which has happened to us in the past," says David Bitton, who operates PayPanther, a software company.
Bitton says there was one occasion where a client suggested an employee be counseled about her skimpy clothing. "After that, we decided to set in place a casual yet professional dress code, and started leading by example."
Deborah Sweeney, owner of MyCorporation.com, an online document filing service for clients forming corporations or limited liability companies, says there is definitely a different dress standard for the summer.
"Summer is a time to allow a bit of a more casual atmosphere at the office, " Sweeney says. "It's important to have a certain level of professional attire, but casual seems to be well-received, especially in the summer months."
Nancy Fagan, owner of The Divorce Help Clinic in San Diego, says her firm has a dress code policy in place, but there are some members of her staff who show up in very casual attire.
"One rule we have in place now that seems to be working is that each mediator keep a black suit jacket at the office," Fagan says. " If they do not have on a suit, they can at least slip the jacket on for a more polished look. We also have a basket we call "the shoe box" with extra professional shoes. Luckily, all the women wear the same shoe size. One mediator has tattoos on her feet so she keeps conservative shoes to hide her tattoos on the days she forgets to cover them."
Not all small-business owners believe that dress codes are necessary or that employee attire has anything to do with productivity.
"I've been running my PR firm for 10 years and I do not believe in a dress code whatsoever," says Jarrod Holland, CEO of Publicity Factory in Wilmington, North Carolina. "I go to work in a baseball cap, jeans or shorts, and a T-shirt every day, and I tell my employees and interns to dress however they want."
Holland adds that he and his team dress appropriately when meeting with a client or a new business prospect, but there are no dress code rules when it comes to spending time in the office.
"It's more important to get the job done and make our clients happy than to dress a certain way for work," Holland says.
Carla Turchetti is a veteran broadcast, print and digital journalist who is passionate about small businesses and the stories behind them. Carla is a small-business columnist at the News & Observer, the regional daily newspaper in Raleigh, North Carolina.