Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
WORKPLACE / AUG. 27, 2014
version 19, draft 19

How you Dress and Workplace Productivity

woman at work
istock

What dress sense will increase the productivity of your team? Is it a suit or a casual dress? These days when university dropouts are becoming startup entrepreneurs and billionaires; you may think that the notion of suit-wearing executives attaining success will have waned.

Suits still rule reports a SHRM study. The figure dropped from 53 percent of employers to 34 percent who allowed casual dress every day in 2012. Some executives are taking a step further to employing fashion experts and image consultants to improve the dress sense in their workplace. It is not the 1990s and early 2000s, when you were allowed to wear casual clothes on Fridays. Workers during previous decades flaunted everything from polo shirts and khakis to sweatshirts and jeans.

Now we understand that we have to wear suits when we see clients. Our clients believe suits communicate trustworthiness and competence during meetings. Even event planners, legal counsels and consultants have to look sharp to be better appreciated by customers.

You cannot undermine the value and importance of suits when conducting business. But do suits improve our productivity in the workplace?

In an expansive Ipsos study of over 12,000 people across 24 countries, it was discovered that 45 percent of workers recognize an individual who wears casual clothes is more productive in their job than someone who is wearing formal attire. The other 55 percent of workers believe that suiting up makes you more productive than wearing casual clothes.

This study did not reveal if wearing a suit will increase your pay; offer a better bonus and promotion chances. Furthermore, 66 percent of workers, in another study, believe that they expect their managers to be better dressed than their employees. It seems to be popular opinion that wearing a suit commands respect in the workplace.

Does it mean that an employee cannot act serious and productive without a suit? When it comes to careers in construction or engineering the question begs a direct answer – you can be serious and productive without a suit. But when professional image comes to play, a lot of clothing has a symbolic meaning to us. A garment or clothing also changes the mental perception of the wearer as the wearer tends to adopt the characteristics associated with the garment.

"Dressing casually could cause an employee to feel less focused and alert," says Dr. Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and fashion psychologist. "Your attentiveness is affected by what you wear." This study reveals that people wearing a doctor’s lab coat showed a enhanced attention. When the same people then wore an identical coat, but were told it was a painter’s coat, they weren’t as interested as when they wore (what they perceived to be) the doctor’s coat.

It depends on how you as an employee perceive the concept of being a professional and how you follow corporate culture. Casual dress could be liberating for some and stifling for others. It is better for an employee to be allowed to determine what work clothes he or she is most comfortable in and can help him or her become more effective.

Please let us know what work outfit will make you more comfortable or effective in the workplace?

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