What Does Business Casual Really Mean?

Joe Weinlick
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A business casual dress code can be hard to define for companies trying to attract the right kinds of workers. You don't want the atmosphere to be too uptight and rigid, but you don't need employees dressing sloppily, either. Learning how to dress for the office in a casual sense can do several things for you and your team.

Put the Business in Business Casual

Companies may terminate employees for failing to follow company policy, including the dress code. When employees arrive for work in something less than business casual, it undermines the perception of employees in terms of customers and clients. Dressing a certain way doesn't diminish your team's talents, but it can alter the perception that people have of your company. That's why employers have a policy about how to dress at the office.

Why Casual Is Important

Business casual attire is important because it removes formalities among employees and it gets them to relax. Relaxed employees work harder, collaborate better and remove hierarchies that could hold back communication. A more relaxed atmosphere lets people be more individual and creative in what they wear, which makes people happier and take pride in their work. A casual corporate culture also attracts younger workers who want to find a place that fits their lifestyle.

Defining Casual

Defining business casual depends on several factors. Various industries have different definitions for this style of dress. For example, the financial industry believes casual dress includes khaki pants and a polo shirt with comfortable and conservative shoes. Manufacturing and retail may define casual in different ways.

Customer interaction also comes into play when dealing with attire at work. Your customers have perceptions based on how your employees look, so you want to exude certain nonverbal cues when customers and clients see your employees in person. Companies without a lot of customer interaction may tone down their attire more compared to companies with regular customer interactions.

What Casual Dress Looks Like

For men, casual dress includes nice slacks or khakis, a collared shirt and elegant but relaxed shoes. Men might wear a sweater on top of the collared shirt during colder months. Women may dress in a knee-length dress or longer with appropriate short-sleeved tops and open-toed shoes. Winter months could see a sweater or vest over the top along with pantyhose for dresses or khaki pants while eschewing a dress altogether.

Casual attire does not mean overly revealing or suggestive clothing, but you do want your team to look its best while operating at peak efficiency. This means giving employees the freedom to express themselves while achieving high levels of customer service.

Business casual means portraying a business-like image without coming across as stuffy or too formal. You also want to make your employees more relaxed at the office. How have you maintained this balancing act?


Photo courtesy of 143d ESC at Flickr.com

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