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What Are the Benefits of Setting a Dress Code in the Workplace?

By Pam Goldberg Smith ; Updated July 18, 2017
Effective dress codes establish rules while leaving certain individual choices.

The mere mention of dress codes in the workplace often draws groans and sighs from employees. Yet, there are numerous benefits to creating policies on proper attire for your particular company. Keep the law and practicality in mind when setting up a dress code.

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Reflecting Company Image

Implementing a dress code communicates much about your company's image and philosophy. Traditional business attire, synonymous with law and accounting firms, creates a traditional and professional appearance and is often used when workers interact regularly with clients. Smart-casual policies, usually within creative industries, focus on employee comfort and expression while maintaining certain ground rules such as not wearing loungewear to work. No matter which an employer chooses, it is beneficial to incorporate the reasons certain dress codes are necessary for the business.

Fairness and Equality

Setting up an appropriate dress code lays the foundation for fair and equal treatment of all employees, regardless of their gender, race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Even the most rigid policies will need to consider these factors. For example, some African-American men cultivate facial hair due to a hypersensitivity to shaving. In this case, though a company requires its male employees to be clean-shaven, this individual should be given flexible options, from growing the beard to keeping it trimmed or even using a hair net if the job is in the food industry. On the other hand, the dress code can differentiate between appropriate dress for men and women, provided there is no outright discrimination. A policy can require men to wear ties and women to wear makeup, but cannot permit male employees to wear jeans while denying the same right to females.

A Safe Work Environment

In many industries, dress policies promote the idea that safety is paramount to protect the workers or clients. A construction company's dress code will typically require that field workers wear such clothing as steel-toe boots, helmets, reflective vests and full-length pants. Gloves are often required when working with food or in the health industry to prevent the spread of bacteria or disease. Certain dress codes also aim to discourage sexual harassment in the workplace. This includes preventing women from wearing revealing attire or men from wearing overly form-fitting items such as muscle shirts.

Team Spirit

When employees know what is expected of them, even in something as simple as how to dress, the majority will rise to the occasion and do exactly what is asked. In this respect, a dress code and its enforcement will create unity and productivity. Of course, there will be individuals who will, for whatever reason, disregard the rules. Keep in mind that some people, namely those new to the workforce, may have never been told that how they dress can hold them back professionally. Engage in conversation with first-time offenders, listening to their reasons and discussing suitable alternatives, if necessary. You will need to enforce penalties for any employee who repeatedly breaks the dress code. After all, your team is only as good as its weakest member.

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About the Author

Pam Smith has been writing since 2005. In addition to her work for Demand Media, her articles have been published online at CBS Local. She also wrote for the Pennsylvania Center for the Book's Literary Map while earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the Pennsylvania State University. She is currently an editorial assistant for Circulation Research.

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