Always a hot topic, the debate surrounding casual clothes at work has revved up again this week – with the Sydney Morning Herald publishing a divisive opinion column, stirring up old tensions between the suits and casually dressed.
“Dress down Friday. Casual clothes day. Can't be [bothered] to wear a suit or shave today day. Call it what you will, but it's become an accepted part of Australian life, especially for office workers,” the column began.
Naturally readers had much to say. Human Capital spoke with three industry representatives to get a snapshot of how big businesses expect their employees to dress day-to-day.
Karen Wells, senior account director at PR firm Text 100, said her firm encourages employees to express their personalities through their dress code.
“We don’t mind at all if people want to have pink streaks in their hair, or if they feel like wearing shorts on a hot day,” Wells said. She added that when meeting with clients, the expectation would be for the employee to “dress appropriately” and “mirror the client’s style or expectations”.
Perhaps casual dressing is the expected policy from youthful businesses with a hip image, but what about a major bank?
Kate Stevens, corporate affairs manager, people & culture from National Australia Bank (NAB), said some business units have an optional casual dress day where appropriate and at their discretion, with employees invited to dress in a smart casual manner.
However, Stevens added, “Employees must still maintain a smart, neat appearance at all times.”
NAB also makes a corporate wardrobe available to all employees, with NAB customer/retail employees wearing the corporate wardrobe at all times.
John Rawlinson, CEO, Talent2 agrees with leaving dress codes to employee discretion, but said their employees are expected to “dress appropriately to their working environment”.
“Our policy is that everybody should dress appropriately for their client base - but we don’t stipulate,” he said.
Further, Rawlinson said that increasingly in Australia he has noticed organisations taking a discretionary approach, and added, “If they aren’t dealing with customers, why would you make them wear shirts and ties every day?”
Rawlinson said Talent2’s dress code is simply to ‘dress appropriately’, but on the topic of dressing casually, he felt that anything that can make the working environment more comfortable and therefore more dynamic “has to be a good thing”.
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