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Hello and welcome to the 21st Century where individual styles and unconventional appearances are more than welcome. The days of greyscale office attire, clean-shaven faces and un-inked skin are rapidly fading into the forgotten land of restrictive social boundaries and oppression. Step aside for the tattooed entrepreneur, the bejewelled businesspeople and the bearded businessmen because the times they are a-changing, my friend. Or are they…

Despite beards, tattoos, piercings and other such body modifications being all the rage right now and showing no signs of slowing down, there are still a substantial percentage of people who are totally against seeing them in the workplace. In fact, the number of people still mightily offended by facial fuzz, expressive ink and visible body jewellery is so high, that their opinions are still having a dramatic impact on employment laws and workplace regulations around the world.

Research carried out by the Pew Research Center (PRC) showed that more than 40% of those surveyed agreed that visible tattoos were ‘always inappropriate’, while figures issued by CareerBuilder revealed that 37% of HR managers cite tattoos as the third most limiting physical attribute.

But are they really so bad?

Facial hair and decorative tattoos have been advancing on the mainstream for many years now with popular public figures like David Beckham and Fearne Cotton (maybe not so much the beard with this one) spurring it all on. Savvy entrepreneurs have capitalised on the facial hair trend and cashed in on the new demand for men’s cosmetic and grooming products, which means beards no longer have to resemble the unruly food-catchers you might find in a Roald Dahl book.

The PRC study shows that 40% of 18-29 year olds have at least one tattoo and also revealed that only 4% of those surveyed with tattoos have ever faced any form of related discrimination. We think these figures confirm our previous suspicions that the times are indeed a-changing as it is this generation of inked millennials that are forming the next age of entrepreneurs and business owners. The number of self-employed professionals is on the rise and by 2020, half of the UK workforce is expected to be operating under a freelance capacity, which will give young professionals more chance to express themselves under their own terms.

Beards, moustaches, piercings and tattoos are this generation’s must-have accessory but it’s sometimes a different story when it comes to the everyday workplace and landing yourself a ‘respectable’ job. An unkempt beard can imply a lack of discipline and sense of pride to prospective employers, while tattoos and piercings have long been (unfairly) associated with the more unsavoury members of society.

However, done with consideration and done well, the alternative appearance of your employees can go a long way towards establishing and affirming your business brand and identity.

The business of beards and body modifications

As you’re probably aware by now, we are an online accountancy company dealing with tax and finance on a daily basis. This means you might have imagined us as a team of suit-clad professionals who carry our briefcases around with us at all times should we need to whip out the polish and shine our shoes at the first sign of scuffing. However, we are in fact an eclectic bunch of beings with our fair share of tattoos, facial hair and body piercings. Does this mean we deliver any less of a service? Our growing client base says definitely not.

Allowing your employees to express themselves and their individuality will avoid any building sense of resentment and boost their sense of self confidence, which can only benefit their productivity. Similarly, as an employee who chooses to rock a more alternative appearance in the appropriate industry, your unique embellishments will likely spark some interesting conversation with clients and create a lasting first impression. Just make sure you’re being remembered for all the right reasons.

It’s extremely important to acknowledge and accept the social and professional boundaries that always follow anything slightly left of centre. Not only as a matter of respect to your employer and their business but also to ensure that you are sticking to legal regulations and workplace policies. If your place of work does exercise restrictive policies, you must adhere to them but if not, ensure you respect your granted freedom by staying well groomed.

In some job roles such as a chef, surgeon or firefighter, it’s clear to see why facial hair is a no-go. Similarly, it’s understandable that a funeral directing service or child care business might not want a heavily tattooed member of staff dealing with their customers. It’s all about finding the right balance and assessing your specific industry to establish what is acceptable and what’s probably best left covered up.

Where do you stand?

When all is said and done, especially during a time of widespread economic revival and skills gaps, would it not be more effective to judge people on their professional performance as opposed to their physical appearance? Or should non-conventional styles be left for the weekend, no matter what?

We always love hearing your opinions so feel free to leave a comment below or tweet us @Accountancy Part and let us know your stance. Whether you’re a bearded businessman, tattooed from head to toe and wearing a nose ring or someone who is completely repulsed at the very thought, we want to hear from you!

About The Author

Karl Bilby

We work very closely with our expert accountants to bring you the latest factually correct tax and accounting news. We also enjoy writing about small business news that we hope you find useful!

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