Implementing & Enforcing A Business Casual Dress Code Policy

Summertime…and the dressing is easy, some employees think. Coming to work in flip-flops and Bermuda shorts may not jibe with your organization’s business casual dress code policy. But that they should not be worn to work might not be explicitly spelled out either. When did employees get the idea that “appropriate footwear” includes workplace-inappropriate flip-flops? Never mind the safety risk — that noise is disruptive enough. As for Bermuda shorts, the length might be appropriate in terms of what you allow for skirt/dress lengths, but they are still shorts after all.

These problems (i.e., flip-flops and shorts), along with other summer fashion flops, were cited in a recent Monster.com poll about workplace wear turn-offs. The survey also listed revealing clothing, loud colors or patterns, t-shirts, and wrinkled clothing as top fashion mistakes in the summer.

Employees should be aware of the image they’re presenting when they dress according to the outside temperature, and not the work environment. An employee who wants to be taken seriously should dress so. Here are ways to address common summer fashion faux pas.

Leave your flip-flops at the front door. Employees can feel free to wear their flip-flops on their way to work and home. But state a rule that employees are required to change into appropriate footwear when they get to work. List what constitutes appropriate footwear (e.g., no open-toe and/or open-back shoes) and provide examples, even pictures, so there will be no misinterpretation of the footwear rule.

No shorts means no shorts, period. No matter how dressy the shorts appear — this applies not only to women, but also men — they are still shorts. Make sure employees understand that shorts, no matter what length and style, are not allowed.

T-shirts are not work shirts. Employees might need a little guidance as to what an appropriate shirt is for work. They may pick out a shirt in the morning that looks clean, neat, and conservative enough for work, but if it’s a t-shirt it still might be too casual. Explain that shirts must have sleeves and a collar; and no sayings, logos, or pictures. If it doesn’t have a collar or sleeves, they must wear a blazer, sport coat, or cardigan sweater over the shirt.

If it can be seen from space, it doesn’t belong in the workplace. Summer fashion is typically bright, bold, and loudly patterned. There’s nothing wrong with an employee wearing rich colors and prints that complement nicely and convey a professional yet stylish appearance. But let them know that fluorescent colors, Hawaiian shirts, animal prints, etc., are not appropriate.

We don’t need to see your undergarments. Employees may want to get to know their co-workers better, but they don’t need to know them that well, i.e., the color and style of their underwear. Some tops (e.g., spaghetti-strap) and bottoms (e.g., low-rise) do just that. To combat this, set a rule that shoulders must be covered, and shirts must be long enough to completely cover the midriff and the waist of pants or tucked in.

Pressing is a pressing need. Some materials, such as linen and cotton, are prone to wrinkling. For a finished look, employees must finish the process of laundering, including ironing. Give them these no-iron-required tips for eliminating wrinkles: hang the garment in the bathroom when showering so the steam will help get rid of the wrinkles; remove the garment from the dryer when the cycle ends and hang it immediately; bring clothing to the cleaners.