If you’ve ever watched Mad Men then you’ll understand what we mean when we say old-fashioned office attire. Think women in pencil skirts and blouses and men in stiff-collared shirts and waistcoats. While the series about a fictional marketing agency in New York brought about a nostalgic revival for fifties office fashion, it represents a time that we are no longer in.

We are now in the 21st Century where modes of working and attitudes to what constitutes appropriate office clothing have shifted significantly in many sectors. However, there are still many businesses – maybe even your own – where mandatory dress regulations still apply to employees but we’re suggesting that it might be time to leave these outdated policies in the past.

Uncomfortable workwear lowers productivity levels

A new body of research recently released in the Neuroradiology Journal covered a study of 30 healthy males – half of them were wearing an open-collared shirt and the other half wearing a button-up shirt and tie. A series of three MRI scans revealed that of those participants wearing ties and a button-up shirt, 7.5% of them experienced a decrease in blood flow to the brain.

Low levels of cerebral blood can damage parts of the brain and lead to reduced brain function which, apart from being extremely dangerous, could result in lower productivity and motivation throughout the day.

Another study of UK workers by Stormline revealed that 61% of people looking for a new job last year would think negatively of a business which enforced a strict dress code and the majority would feel more productive wearing clothes of their choice.

Some might argue that this opens the floodgates to inappropriate clothing choices and a lack of professionalism but of those surveyed, a vast 78% said they would still dress smartly and make a distinction between casual and work clothes when left to their own devices.

As part of the study, occupational health expert Sir Cary Cooper CBE, professor of organisational psychology & health at the ALLIANCE Manchester Business School, said: “Employers should trust their people enough to let them dress how they please. They may wish to advise on items they don’t want to see in the office, but to specify what they must wear is highly patronising.

“We must also consider the challenges of a formal dress code for people with disabilities, both hidden and visible, and chronic illnesses. Psoriasis sufferers, for example, may struggle wearing a buttoned-up collar but may not feel confident in asking for exemption from the dress code.”

Now we’ve shared some facts and figures with you, we want to hear your opinion. Are you a business owner who prefers your staff to adhere to a company clothing policy? Or are you an employee on the lookout for a new job and would be put off by a boss who dictates what you can and can’t wear?

Share your thoughts in the comments below or feel free to tweet us @AccountancyPart.

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