Attitudes differ on acceptable office attire

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Many workplace dress codes are somewhat vague - they refer to business attire and avoiding “revealing” clothing. Some may specify no shorts, or dress shoes, but ultimately it’s often left up to workers to interpret the vagaries of their dress code.

A new survey found a wide range of opinions, and emphasized the difficult path HR treads in balancing different employees’ standards, without alienating staff with draconian rules.

The Captivate Network Office Pulse report shows a big gap on a range of issues.

  • 45% of senior managers say cleavage is acceptable, and 87% of the same group find it distracting
  • Bare legs are particularly an issue for men with 72% finding them distracting, but 58% say it’s okay in the office
  • Tattoos seem to split along age lines with 67% of those under 50 finding them acceptable, and 61% finding ink at work distracting
  • There’s less debate over short skirts with almost 80% of mid-level and junior managers saying they’re unacceptable work attire
  • About a quarter of men say spaghetti straps at work are a-okay with them… but two thirds of managers say it’s a distracting sartorial choice
  • The always controversial men in shorts category struggled to find support with less than a fifth of men saying it was okay, and more than half the women told Captivate they found the look distracting.
  • There was a also a  gender split when it came to see-through clothing… 19% of men said they thought the look was fine for work, but 91% of women said it was too distracting.

If you’ve struggled in the past with staff’s poor dress, try revamping your policy to be very specific. Give examples of acceptable and unacceptable dress, and consider including photos of what standard is expected.

For tips on managing underdressed staff, see the previous HRM story on How to tell a staff member they're dressed inappropriately.



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