Create a dress code for your virtual workplace to help with professionalism, productivity

By Thelia Puryear,
StrategyLINC founder and CEO

Man dressed for work in a mix of business attire and pajamas

Employee coming to work straight from bed

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the majority of those who worked from home this spring during Covid-19 wore casual or athletic wear such as sweatshirts and sweatpants when they were not on a video call. When on a video call, almost half of all employees wore an “office-appropriate” top with casual bottoms. Up to 17 percent wore pajamas, and fewer than 6 percent wore formal business or business casual attire.

Some workers are going for even more casual attire, according to news reports. For example, a circuit court judge made national headlines when he had to address this issue with attorneys who were appearing inappropriately on camera.

“We’ve seen many lawyers in casual shirts and blouses, with no concern for ill-grooming, in bedrooms with the master bed in the background, etc.,” wrote judge Dennis Bailey to the Weston Bar Association. “One male lawyer appeared shirtless, and one female attorney appeared still in bed, still under the covers … So, please, if you don’t mind, let’s treat court hearings as court hearings, whether Zooming or not,” he said.

School districts are also finding the need to implement virtual dress codes for students. One in Springfield, Ill., forbade hats, pajama pants, slippers and shoes with wheels.

To help with these issues, create a clear, specific, and enforceable dress policy for employees when they work in your physical office or from a virtual location. Just as you have policies regarding codes of conduct, create clear guidelines for dress in the virtual world. This will help your employees know what is expected of them while on work duty regardless of location.

Consider eliminating extremely casual attire from the workplace. Sleep and athleisure wear should be worn for those activities and not for an office environment. Just as it would be unprofessional to appear dressed for sleep or a workout while in a physical space, it is the same for the virtual world.

Being too flexible with home office attire can promote a lack of professionalism. In “Dress Codes in the Workplace: Effects on Organizational Culture,” researchers discovered workers “show more efficiency and authority at the workplace” when they are required to dress more formally for work. Informal dress codes promoted a lack of authority and professionalism, they said.

Treat your dress code implementation just as you would when in the physical office. Put the policy in writing and implement an orientation for all to attend. This will help promote understanding of the policy itself and the reasons why it is needed. Encourage an open dialogue on the issue and implement a specific date and time for it to take effect, so all have time to adapt.

Don’t forget to encourage style and creativity so workers can enjoy their workplace. The question of what to wear while employed in a virtual world has been addressed by celebrity stylists and magazines such as Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Men’s Health and Esquire. Let employees know that although the appropriate dress is required, representing your company in a virtual world can still be exciting and fun.

If you are looking for training or policy development for your organization to enhance business performance, contact us today for an initial consultation. We can help you with workplace management issues, so you and your team are always at your best.