Shorts at work: Should employers allow it?

Employers told to be 'explicit' about dress code rules at work

Shorts at work: Should employers allow it?

As New Zealand’s summer season draws closer, a new report has found that majority of employees believe it is acceptable at some level to wear shorts at work.

Frog Recruitment’s latest survey among over 800 employees found that 34% said “yes, any time” to wearing shorts in the workplace, particularly in corporate offices. Another 31% were reserved but found it acceptable as long as there were no client meetings or interactions.

A third (34%) of employees surveyed, however, said wearing shorts at work was “unprofessional.”

The survey comes ahead of New Zealand’s summer season - which usually takes place between December and February, where temperatures are expected to range between 21 and 32 degrees Celsius.

New Zealand’s MetService has been gearing up for the season as it begins this month heat alert trials for 46 towns or cities, if the forecast temperatures are expected to be unusual (very hot) for those locations.

It also comes amid warnings that the world has entered an era of “global boiling,” leaving employees vulnerable to scorching heat.

Impact on productivity

One of the survey respondents said they would “jump at the chance to wear shorts” on a hot day and with their office air-conditioning ineffective.

“I know I would work better and harder,” the respondent said as quoted by Frog Recruitment.

But would it really impact productivity? Only 36% said they’d be more productive at their job if they could wear shorts, while a larger 49% said it won’t really make any difference.

Should employers allow shorts?

Shannon Barlow, managing director at Frog Recruitment, attributed the desire for shorts to various reasons, including recent fashion trends and the impact of remote and hybrid work on employee dress codes.

But whether or not employers allow this, the managing director underscored that policies should be clear on corporate attire.

“Ultimately, wearing shorts to work is an individual company choice,” she said. “The short answer is employers should be clear about their expectations to ensure people are not surprised or distracted by their colleague’s knees when there is work to get on with.”

Barlow said they’ve been hearing about employers allowing shorts and are applying the same rules that they would apply to skirts and dresses in terms of length and fit.

“Other common policies allow more casual dressing on days when no client-facing is happening, but some employers expect a more formal dress code for face-to-face interactions,” Barlow said.

This is the case for banking and law sectors, where there are common standards for their profession.

“A company needs to be clear on its expectations around office dress code. If it forbids shorts, this should be explicit in policy,” Barlow said.

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