Finding the Perfect Summer Dress Code for Your Company

Take a look around the office. You may notice that hemlines are creeping up, fewer shirts are tucked in, and more skin is exposed.

Ah, signs that spring is officially here! The change of season inevitably brings another seasonal occurrence: the need to revisit your company’s warm weather dress code policy.

Before I begin, you do have a dress code, right? Because it turns out a lot of companies don’t. But for the purpose of this article, let’s assume you have one.

At the expense of repeating myself, you really should revisit your dress code policy with employees sooner rather than later or you will inevitably encounter questions such as:

Will a relaxed dress code be implemented as soon as the weather becomes warmer, or during a set time frame (such as Memorial Day through Labor Day)?

Will employees be required to continue the regular dress code when customers and clients visit the office?

Will a relaxed dress code be incorporated throughout the entire week or just on Fridays?

This also provides an opportunity to reinforce your organization’s standards on personal appearance, as well as specifically identifying the types of garments that are permissible and those that are prohibited.

And unfortunately, that line – between summer casual and summer sloppy – is hard to define. Not even the overly policy-enthused Human Resources Director wants to decide whether a leather sandal, covering exactly the same part of the body as a plastic flip flop, is appropriate or not. Trust me on this.

Now that you’ve decided on the parameters for summer dress, be proactive in your approach and clearly communicate you expectations regarding this topic. Its best practice that employees receive communications (I love a written memorandum) addressing permissible attire as well as garments that are expressly prohibited in the workplace – except for religious-based exemptions, of course. Ask your employees to sign off physically or electronically on this reminder in order to verify that they have acknowledged receipt of the personal appearance policy.

Having the policy communicated in writing not only will straighten out any employees with a less-than-clear understanding of the rules, but also curbs any subjective judgement calls made by managers and supervisors that could result in employees claiming they have been subject to discriminatory treatment.

And finally, unless you’re in a warehouse, delivery or outdoor work, here are some tips to follow and less-than professional clothing to avoid.

When in doubt, don’t. If you think a piece of clothing could be inappropriate for the office, it probably is.
Strike a balance. Sloppy or skimpy summer dress can be distracting to co-workers and can also affect productivity and customer service. Employers need to balance the needs of their clients and corporate culture when determining appropriate dress for warmer weather.

Be polished. No matter what time of year it is, it’s important to make a good impression and present a professional image. Make sure your clothes are clean and presentable.

No, No, No’s. Flip flops, frayed jeans, shorts, exercise clothing, baseball caps, T-shirts with illustrations, messages, or logos other than for your organization, tops or sundresses that reveal cleavage or bare midriffs, hemlines too short to sit or walk stairs without revealing underwear, sheer material that reveals underwear, tank tops, unbuttoned shirts that reveal chest hair, sandals, or shoes without socks.

Bottom Line: When it comes to warm weather dress, communicate clearly, be consistent and for Pete’s sake, use common sense people!