Businesses began instituting relaxed dress codes in the 1990s with mixed feelings and varying results. Employers and their workers sometimes struggle to strike a balance between professional appearance and practicality. Business-casual dress codes in the workplace can be beneficial because they alleviate the stresses of conformity, expense and discomfort.
A business-casual dress code can help employees feel more relaxed and able to focus on their tasks. In workplaces where suits are required, employees may experience the distraction of anxiety about their appearance. They may also be less likely to concentrate on how they must change for after-work obligations such as carpooling, youth sports or charity efforts. Employees who find themselves in zones of comfort -- where their apparel is not scrutinized or measured against others' -- may perform better at work.
A relaxed dress code in the office can help ease economic strain on employees. Compensation for the cost of cleaning and replacing business suits and accessories is not common in the workplace. Some employees lose focus due to resentment over the price they must pay to dress appropriately under strict dress guidelines. Employees may work harder if they receive the pay-off of dressing to their comfort level.
A company with a casual dress code can maximize the versatility of its work force. For instance, a small business that relies on its employees to multi-task can rely on workers to do more than greet customers or man desks if they are dressed to handle other duties such as moving materials, commuting to job sites or juggling responsibilities between the front and back of operations.
Companies that support casual dress codes can send positive signals to employees that they appreciate individuality. Solid contributions can come from people who dress differently, but realize common goals. Discretion where client expectations of how company representatives should dress is a necessary concern. But work environments where client contact is not a concern could grow more productive in relation to workers' comfort levels. Finally, it is important for employees to adhere to their employer's business-casual dress code and understand that relaxed does not mean sloppy. Items such as flip-flops and distressed jeans usually are prohibited even for dress-down Fridays.
A. Scott Walton began his journalism career in 1985 at the "Nashville Tennessean." His reports have extended to radio, television and the Web and he has written extensively for the "Detroit Free Press," the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," the "Atlanta Voice" and many other publications. Walton holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Vanderbilt University.