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It's Getting Hot Out Here, But Do NOT Take Off All Your Clothes!

Q:  Dear Workplace Wonda,

The weather is heating up around here and so is some of the clothing staff is wearing to work!  Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I don’t believe professionalism should be thrown in the hamper like layers of unwanted  clothing just because it’s hot.  I understand most organizations have a relaxed dress code during the summer, but we are running a business, not Club Med!  Any suggestion on how to handle summer dress code?   

Signed, Stressed About the Undressed



A:  Dear  Stressed About the Undressed, 

I can understand your frustration.  Dealing with dress code during the summer months can be a STICKY subject - for the employee - and for the employer. 

Employees want to feel fresh and comfortable when coming to work and employers want employees to look crisp and professional.  Unfortunately, if you do not have a clear dress code policy,  violations can heat up faster than Visalia in August.  

You are correct, more and more organizations are choosing a more “relaxed” or “business casual” dress code in the summer months.  Doing so can have a positive affect on employee morale, but It can also lead to serious problems for employers if the dress code is not communicated and enforced.
It might seem like common sense and in good taste to NOT show your bits and pieces at work; but hey, if everyone followed the rules, there would be no need for a Human Resources Department or Workplace Wonda. 

What is “business casual,” anyway?  Isn’t the title itself an oxymoron?  Talk about confusing.  Does this mean you can wear sandals with your suit or a tank top with your skirt?  If an employer does not set specific guidelines for appropriate dress, than you might get some mighty interesting interpretations of what “business casual” or “relaxed” means.  For me, “relaxed” means my extra-large overalls, a white t-shirt, and some comfy flip flops.

To answer your question, make sure your organization sends out a dress code reminder for the summer months. 

The dress code reminder will want to include do’s and don’ts and should inform employees of the consequences if the dress code is not followed.  What is considered appropriate might differ from business to business.  Shorts, open- toed shoes, or casual t-shirts might be acceptable in some professions.  Personally, I might actually break down and cry if the UPS guys quit wearing those brown shorts...

Employees should consider what image they want to project when deciding what to wear, whether it be summer or not.  I don’t think anyone wakes up and says, “today I think I’ll go Paris Hilton ala Carl’s Jr.”  At least I hope not.  The following are some basic “don’ts.”

1.  Don’t show too much skin.  Top half no-nos:  Spaghetti straps, strapless, sheer or low-cut tops or dresses.  Bottom half no-nos:  Short skirts and shorts. If you have to ask for forgiveness the next day, don’t wear it!

2.  Keep your feet neat.  According to several surveys, flip flops are considered the biggest dress code offender.  Professional sandals, flats, or loafers would be much more sweet on your feet.

3.  Men can also offend.  No-Nos include muscle shirts, flip flops, t-shirts that say things like “I’ll work for beer,” gym shorts.  Instead, choose khaki pants and light nylon or cotton polos. 

Remind staff that if they look in the mirror and are questioning if they should wear it or not, take the conservative route. 

Signed, Workplace Wonda

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