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Should You Loosen Your Dress Code for Summer?

Summer weather can make people hot under the collar – and that’s as true of office workers as outdoor staff.

“Savvy companies can maintain staff productivity and morale by embracing summer in the workplace,” says Sasha Truckenbrod, branch manager of Robert Half and OfficeTeam in Madison.

One great way to embrace summer: relax your company’s dress code to account for higher temperatures. Truckenbrod recommends allowing “staff who aren’t customer- or client-facing to wear more casual attire, as long as it doesn’t detract from work.”

But if you do loosen dress code restrictions, be sure to follow these five best practices:

Set clear boundaries.
Make it clear during what time period the new summer dress code applies, e.g. from Memorial Day in May through Labor Day in September. You might set other boundaries as well, e.g., only employees with no customer contact that day may wear clothing from the summer dress code.

Include “don’ts” among your “do’s.”
To avoid misunderstandings, be very clear with employees about the parameters of the new dress code. In addition to specifying what’s allowable, also note attire that would be inappropriate even in summer (e.g., flip-flops or athletic wear).

Provide guidance and training to management.
Even despite your best intentions, change inevitably brings questions and miscommunications. If front-line managers will judge appropriateness, make sure they receive some degree of training on how to make determinations in unclear situations – or else risk major inconsistencies in policy enforcement.

Always keep employment law in mind.
For example, as SHRM reports, “sex-differentiated dress codes are permissible under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as long as they do not impose unequal burdens on men and women.” You must also ensure that other protected classes, e.g., disabled workers, are accommodated in the policy, though you should avoid singling out specific groups in the policy.

You don’t have to go all the way.
If work-related considerations prevent your organization from going casual all day every day throughout the summer, you might still be able to accommodate a little more comfort during the summer. Instead of a brand-new policy, you might simply relax “Casual Friday” guidelines to accommodate shorts or sportswear or add an extra casual day during the week.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about our ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.