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Dress down days: benefit or burden?

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Added: 19 November 2014

Dress down days: benefit or burden?

First impressions.

The way we dress is a form of non verbal communication.  In an interview , we use the way we dress to show that we understand the nature of the job and the possible expectations of the employer. It is a way of expressing our personality, but at the same time showing that we have a professional attitude. If a pair of smart shoes costs the same money and is just as accessible as a pair of trainers, would you choose to wear trainers in such a situation?.  Some clients may consider it quite acceptable to dress down in an important meeting under some circumstances but this is not normal practice. On a subconscious level you may be creating an impression that lasts for some time. It is also easier to dress down an outfit once you are at work than it is to make it look more formal. With this in mind you might wish to plan the date for a dress down day so that it doesn’t coincide with an important first meeting of any sort.

The workplace environment.

The first few days at work are when we try to get to know our new bosses, clients and colleagues. It is a chance to see what clothing is considered normal, acceptable and what is generally considered unacceptable in this particular workplace. It is perhaps wiser to continue to dress in smart attire if you are unsure about what the boundaries may be. However; if a suit is ridiculously impractical for your particular work it would probably be quite obvious at this time. A workplace in which you are not meeting clients and or members of the public might not necessarily have such a strict dress code for their employees every day.

What are the benefits of a dress down day?.

A dress down day is an opportunity to choose clothing which makes staff feel more comfortable whilst they are work, to show a more personal style and appear a little more approachable maybe. Happy staff are generally considered to be more productive. It can also be used for a good cause, such as making a small donation to charity. It involves putting a little trust into your staff to choose something which is still work appropriate and isn’t likely to draw attention to them in a particularly negative way or is likely to cause offence. Some companies also suggest all staff wear black and white casual attire, or something similar to make it more fun and to take the stress out of having to completely guess what to wear.

What are the possible negatives of a dress down day?

If the daily work attire is already quite relaxed you may wish to consider whether some boundaries would be crossed on a dress down day. If staff are already wearing smart casual clothing on a daily basis could this result in a far too casual attitude throughout that day, complaints being made and behaviours which are perhaps not suited to your particular workplace?. If they are normally very smartly dressed would they take it as an opportunity to relax the dress code too much for a dress down day? Whilst it is nice to get to know a person’s personality, to find similar likes and interests and topics of conversation, a poor choice of slogan T-shirt or top for example might cause offence and/ or make other members of staff feel uncomfortable.


The reasons for a dress day down can vary a lot, as can the outcomes. It depends a lot on the personalities of everyone involved and how strict company rules and policies are. If it increases morale, and that in turn makes staff more productive, without being outweighed by negative responses then it could be worth considering. For some new members of staff, choosing an appropriate outfit for dress down day can be quite daunting when you are still getting to know your boss/ team. You run the risk of getting it wrong and sometimes it’s easier to stick to what has been tried and tested in the workplace. A dress down day as an occasional fundraising opportunity is possibly a better option if that is the case. Lots of people look forward to dressing down every Friday, but it is not necessarily something that everyone considers important to them or to have a significant effect on their work. 

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