Work clothes on top. Workout clothes on the bottom.
One of the few things that wasn’t restricted during lockdown was the dress code. Even the most corporate of corporations and politicians on the news were dressed down in jeans and a t-shirt. For employees around the country, it signalled the end of an enforceable uniform. And now, having become used to having no need to dress up except for the occasional video call (and, of course, a mask when out and about), a return to the office might be hard to face.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Following the pandemic, many employers created a plan or policy around video conferencing etiquette. For those encouraging employees to stay at home, it’s the best way to connect – if it’s done properly. And in all but the everyday occasions, that means dressing properly, too. A quick catchup with a colleague? Dress as casually as you’d talk. But beyond that – for example, a customer meeting – it can’t hurt to throw a smart shirt over whatever it is you’re comfortable in at home.
The Industrious Code party line? If your employer hasn’t updated their dress code policy to incorporate remote working and video conferences, then it’s best to stick to the general rule of thumb and dress appropriately. Dress for success and all that.
If your employer has updated the dress code, or you’ve started a new job during the pandemic and are facing a “return” to an office you’ve never been to before, you might hear broad terms thrown around to describe how to dress. Let’s take a quick look at some of the most common – and help you break down exactly what is and what isn’t a fit.
Business casual (in a large business or enterprise)
If you’re being told to dress business casual, you might be a remote worker in a large or enterprise corporation. They seem to be going that way these days, and no wonder – a Stormline study revealed that 61% of employees are more productive when the dress code is relaxed. Of course, this really only applies to the day-to-day – client-facing roles and meetings are probably the place to dress a little more business and a little less casual.
Business casual (in a startup or small business)
If you’re being told to dress business casual, you might also work in a startup or small business. Here, things are often a little more relaxed – even in person in the office. And, like anywhere else, you can still scale formality up or down for the right occasion.
If you’re being told to dress business professional, you might spend a lot of time between an office desk and meeting rooms. It can be tough to find a balance between comfortable (which you always want to be) and professional (which your clients expect you to be) – but with these threads, you should be able to make it work for you.
For women, business professional could be a top or blouse with a long or medium-length skirt or trousers. Closed-toe shoes or heels are best here. For men, a formal shirt with a tie is recommended. Suit trousers and, if you like, a matching suit jacket will complete the look.
If you’re being told to dress business formal, you might be on your way to an important meeting or interview. There’s no sense in a half-measure here – fasten all your buttons but don’t shy away from showing some personality with socks, ties or other accessories. Here’s what works.
For women, heels or smart flat shoes are best. A dress shirt with suit jacket and matching skirt or trousers sends the right message and leaves you free to accessorise a bit. For men, it’s not dissimilar – smart black or brown shoes with a dress shirt and suit and tie. With the foundations in place, you can add some accessories like a watch or colourful socks or tie.
If you’re a creative, you’re probably not expected to go full business formal. In fact, you might not be told what to wear at all. Marketing agencies, tech firms and other small and creative businesses rarely set a dress code – so your best bet is to take the cue of whoever you’re interviewing with or what you see when you walk round the office.
For women, feel free to throw a t-shirt over some jeans. Add some accessories that show off your personality. If you want, bring a jumper or cardigan to ever-so-slightly elevate the professionalism when you need to. For men, a t-shirt and jeans are also fine. Maybe an open shirt over the top that you can button if the need arises. And casual, comfy, clean shoes are fine all round.
Dressed up or down?
What will you be wearing when you return to the office? We hope this post has given you something to refer to if your company has set new rules.