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Aug 1, 2007
Inappropriate dress can not only destroy your store's image and turn off customers, it can also distract employees. Short of giving these staff members a fashion makeover, is there anything you can do?
Yes, according to Beth Gaudio of the National Federation of Independent Business' legal foundation. Creating a dress code for the workplace can be tricky, she acknowledges, but the benefits of a consistently enforced policy outweigh the downsides.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the majority of people who work in an office environment must adhere to some form of dress code, and businesses see the benefits in the increased professionalism among colleagues who are dressed to impress. While T-shirts, tank tops and sandals may be more comfortable, wearing business attire boosts employees' business attitudes and improves the quality of work produced.
If that is important in an office environment, it is perhaps more important among employees who interact with the public. Retail salespeople form your customers' first impressions.
What should your employees wear? A recent Yahoo HotJobs poll showed that 82 percent of workplaces are casual. "Companies are embracing the theory that comfort increases productivity," says Susan Vobejda, Yahoo HotJob's career expert and V.P. of marketing. Dress may consist of casual or formal business attire, but above all, employees should be neat.
Keep in mind that different policies may be necessary for different types of employees and for different kinds of stores. Realistically, no one should expect a salesperson to be dressed in the same attire as a maintenance staff worker. A broad reaching policy that covers both types of employees may be most appropriate.
Stores that sell to an older, more traditional market may want employees to dress more formally than stores that sell to a younger, hipper crowd. Appropriate attire in a gift store at the shore will be different from employee dress at a luxury store.
At a fundamental level, however, personal appearance and hygiene are a reflection of a company's character, so employees are expected to dress appropriately for their individual responsibilities and positions. Some employers find more specifics are necessary, as general descriptions like, "business attire," or, "appropriate attire," have become increasingly ambiguous. Such descriptions could conceivably include anything from sweaters and khakis to Hawaiian shirts and sandals.
If you're concerned about employees' creative interpretations of appropriate attire, the dress code can ban specific items, such as: tank tops or muscle shirts, clothing imprinted with foul language or obscene images, worn or torn clothing, sweatpants or sweat suits, or baseball caps.
Whether or not dress codes violate antidiscrimination laws is a valid consideration, since a poorly written dress code could place you on the receiving end of a lawsuit.
Any policy that disproportionately affects a particular gender or race, or requires an employee to violate religious beliefs, could violate antidiscrimination laws
This article was edited from a story written for NFIB.
Topic: Business Strategies
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