Joggers, leggings, sweats? What to wear, what not to wear as you return to the office
No suit. No tie. No problem these days.
The casualization of office attire started before the pandemic, but COVID took it to a new level as many employees worked remotely.
Now as employees return to the workplace, business casual seems to be the predominant theme, but companies would be well-advised to remind employees of dress code expectations to avoid problems later on, experts say.
"My advice to employers is to be proactive," says Domenique Camacho Moran, a partner at Farrell Fritz in Uniondale. "Tell employees on a regular basis what you expect."
During the summer, it’s okay to remind staff ‘we don’t want beachwear,’ she says. Many employers, including her own law firm, she says, have moved to business casual.
But even that could be open to interpretation if employers are not clear, says Moran, noting, "business casual has been redefined industry by industry."
For example, business casual at a law firm isn’t ripped jeans and graphic T-shirts but could be dockers and golf shirt with a belt, she says.
Relaxed policy may continue
Kahler says dress codes were relaxed before the pandemic and will likely be more relaxed as employees return to work.
But she doesn’t think it will go to the degree where employees will be wearing home attire like sweats.
"A lot of people do a mix of working from home and working from the office and dress codes will reflect that," Kahler says.
Dressing down for charity
The firm also allows jeans on Casual Fridays, which is tied to a fundraiser element. Every Friday each employee contributes $5 to dress down. Contributions are matched by the firm and donated to a charity each quarter, Wyetzner says.
To be sure, business casual is here to stay and is being considered a perk by many employers, says Jeff Agranoff, human resources consulting principal at Jericho-based Grassi Advisors & Accountants.
It’s a perk at Grassi too,, he says, noting, "we’ve always had flexibility in our dress code."
Four years ago the firm adopted business casual. Then two years later jeans were allowed when appropriate with a professional top. The firm’s now transitioning to a "Dress for your day" policy that came out of the pandemic as half of their employees are still on a hybrid work schedule.
Agranoff stresses that even if you’re on a Zoom call with a client you’re expected to dress appropriately.
Employers have the right to adopt dress code policies and enforce those policies, Moran says, adding, enforcement is typically in the form of counseling, warning or, if necessary, the termination of employment.
Any dress code policy, Hyland says, should also be uniformly enforced. Make sure it’s not gender-biased, meaning don’t put stricter dress code requirements on women than men or vice versa, she says.
Adds Moran, employers also should provide reasonable accommodations for a disability or religious reasons.
And be mindful of who’s having the conversation if there’s a violation. Ideally it should be Human Resources.
"You want to avoid a sexual harassment issue, Moran says.