Should You Make Your Office More Casual?

Joe Weinlick
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The cohesiveness of your company's office environment directly affects your productivity and profitability. Whereas many corporations and companies strive to create formal workplaces, the shift to more casual cultures is on the rise. Creating a casual environment where employees feel less restricted and more valued for their performance may prove to be beneficial for your company culture and your company's ability to succeed.

Eliminating Formalities

In the past, workplaces often adopted formal dress codes that required employees to don uncomfortable suits, expensive dress shoes and neatly arranged hair styles. However, with a push toward the encouragement of creativity in the office environment, self-expression through dress has driven companies to loosen the reigns and encourage more than just an occasional casual Friday. By letting go of the formalities, a company's hierarchy levels dissipate, which ultimately fosters more open communication between the staff and management.

The Push for Collaboration

Adopt a casual approach and provide comfort in the office to promote a more collaborative workspace. Firms are opting for communal spaces, employee lounges and reclining seats in place of the executive desks and formal conference rooms that offered minimal comfort. As a result, the open office environment offers a balance of work and play that can improve productivity. Instead of lining the office with cubicles that close employees off from one another, incorporate standing desks, open spaces with tables for meetings and sofas that encourage your staff to communicate.

Embracing Technology

A formal memo is no longer standard procedure. Communicating through advanced technology has shown the positive aspects of creating a more casual office environment. Employees utilize smartphones to email clients, text co-workers and chat with managers, and this informal approach does not necessarily hinder production. In fact, it may improve your staff's ability to meet deadlines, enhance their overall performance and tackle once-overlooked obstacles. Instead of formal meetings, video conferences and webinars allow more members of your staff to attend and become involved with projects.

Offering Flexibility for Multiple Generations

The influx of millennials in the workplace has significantly impacted the push for a more casual office environment. This diverse generation has grown up with technology, and it thrives on innovation and creativity. Your firm is more likely to attract highly talented individuals when encouraging the use of technology in the workplace. Flexibility is also closely tied to transforming into a "casual" company. Each year, more firms offer telecommuting options, social hours and partnerships with the community to adhere to the goals and values of the younger generation.

Consider your company culture and the needs of your employees when transitioning to a casual office environment. While the shift may be a solid move for productivity and employee satisfaction, employers must also consider the most effective strategies necessary to promote customer satisfaction and thrive in the industry.


Photo Courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Tisha thanks for your comment and perspective. So true - working in the banking/financial world requires a certain type of dress. I will say, though, that I have noticed that the style of dress for my local banks has gone from the nice dress or suit with a pair of heels to a business casual with most of the women wearing slacks and more casual type shoes. The men are still wearing dress shirts with a tie but very seldom do I see them wearing a jacket. So things are changing. I agree with some of the crazy casual Friday wear. I have seen it all from tank tops and cut-off shorts to flip-flops. In my town, since it's such a big sport's town, if there is a game that day, many workers will wear their team's shirts, sweaters, etc. That is acceptable wear here but they wouldn't be able to get away with it in another place that doesn't have all of the sporting teams. For me, when I was working outside of the home, I always wore business casual and it was very acceptable. So there really is no "one style fits all".

  • Tisha C.
    Tisha C.

    I've worked in both atmospheres, and I think that productivity isn't necessarily reflective based on clothing, however, there are just some professions where it is imperative to have professional dress attire: suits (men and women), shirt/tie, dress, heels/dress flats. I want to be seen and present myself as business. We have to also remember that everyone's casual is not the same. Casual Friday's went out of control many times, leading to HR based conversations, issues and hurt feelings no matter how gently said. Please trust me as a current professional Bank Manager, we need and appreciate dress guidelines.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Monica thanks for your comment and explanation to @Francis. Couldn't have said it better myself. I truly do not believe that we will return to the days of suits and ties for men and skirts and heels for women. At least not in most industries. It used to be that's what you would see when you walked into a bank, too, but even that is changing. I can't remember the last time I saw a man in a suit and tie in my bank. Or a woman who was wearing a skirt and heels. So the times truly have changed.

  • Monica M.
    Monica M.

    @ Francis...I understand and grew up with that belief, but also grew up when back to school shopping reduced a mom to tears...did you ever maybe think that the suit and tie look is not always in the budget? The conservative casual look is more affordable and will generate employees who are able to wear the office attire and be even more grateful for the paycheck...therefor more loyal?

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Francis thanks for your comment. It's great that you wear a suit and tie to work every day. I, too, was brought up in that era where you dress for the job you want, not for the job you have. Unfortunately our world is changing and those days are pretty much over at most companies. In areas like banking, finance, WallStreet, etc, dressing for success will probably remain. However, in companies that are not in the public eye, the dress code has become more lax as the years have gone by. Gone are the dressing for success days. Here to stay - business casual.

  • Francis S.
    Francis S.

    I've been in suits and bow ties my entire work career and productivity's never been a question. Sorry, but the whole "business casual" culture is just highly unprofessional and panders to an adolescent reluctance to have to dress up to any extent. Time to grow up and be an adult in an adult professional world.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Monica thanks for your comment. Casual but tasteful is the way most places should be. Wearing a suit and tie or a skirt and heels can be very uncomfortable for sure but some work place environments require that sort of dress. I am with you. I believe that, if you are comfortable, you will be more productive.

  • Monica M.
    Monica M.

    Would you believe that casual but tasteful makes for a more comfortable work environment and can possibly increase productivity?

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