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Put Your Clothes Back On!

If one were to try to identify an upside to the current coronavirus pandemic, I suppose it would be this— freedom.  Freedom to work from home. Freedom to create a schedule that allows for maximum flexibility to attend to all the aspects of our lives.  Feel like taking a walk at 10 a.m.? No problem.  Need to help your kids with online class at 1:00 p.m.? No problem.  When you work from home you are the master of your own destiny. You are given the freedom to create a plan for your life.  Everybody’s demands are unique to them, so everybody’s plan can be customized to their lifestyle.   Hands down, quality time with the family has been the best perk of being forced to stay at home. However, a close second to that has been the fact that we did not have to jump out of bed, shower, and get dressed in our work “uniform.”  Obviously, whatever you wear to work at your place of business is your uniform.  Some professions require formal business attire, but the movement to business casual is more the norm today. Dresses, sport coats, nice shirts, skirts, and blouses, are typically considered business casual.  There are many companies that allow an even more relaxed look where jeans, casual shirts, and even certain kinds of shorts can be worn in the office.  Many companies, feel that if they are not seeing customers face-to-face, a more relaxed uniform is fine and in no way negatively impacts their productivity.

With the stay at home order in place, people could roll out of bed moments prior to a scheduled conference call or an online meeting and start the day in whatever they slept in the night before.

It was funny to watch how at first, most who were working from home still dressed and prepared for work like they were heading to the office. But within about ten days, that quickly degenerated into hats being worn to hide uncombed hair and sweats taking the place of suits and uniforms.  No showers.  No grooming. This meant a sloppy appearance instead a professional one.

Everyone knew that as things reopened, they would once again have to rise before the sun, take a shower, and get dressed.  That the time is now.  It’s time to Put Your Clothes Back on, America!”  Most hard-working American’s appear to be in support of resuming our normal lives by getting back to the workplace.  However, the one thing that people seem to be holding onto is the idea of a more relaxed dress code.

In my office building, there are lawyers and doctors just down the hall.  They used to come to work dressed very nicely.  Now, they are wearing grungy shorts, flip flops, and tee shirts.

As I have begun to visit the few restaurants and stores that have started opening their doors to the public, I am dismayed by the fact that the employees are not dressed as professionally as they once were.

I don’t want to be a kill joy, but it is time to leave the comfy clothes in your closet.  It’s time to put your work clothes back on and get serious about rebuilding this economy.  The world is not ready for and will not accept this subpar appearance “thing.” Everybody wears a uniform when they go to work. Whether it is a true uniform that matches all the other employees in the building or a uniform that has been defined by the expectations of your profession, people are going to want to see you in that uniform again, particularly if you want to be taken seriously.

While I have always advocated that every business take a look at their uniforms every three to five years to ensure that they are current and match the message that a business is trying to convey, I would caution all businesses on allowing the coronavirus look to continue.  Unless it can be proven that the “just rolled out of bed look” has or will increase business, I strongly suggest rejecting it.

As a business owner or manager, you were right to relax dress code standards for the past eight weeks because it probably did not matter how employees were dressed.  After all, we were just trying to stay healthy and alive. Moving from this point forward, however, I believe appearances will make a big difference. The good news is that, if prior to the pandemic, you were considering changing uniforms and dress codes, now is the perfect time to do so. It will be easier to tighten-up, loosen-up, or otherwise shore-up what you want your employees to look like.  Most of us are just going to be glad to get back to work. Make sure that the image that you and your employees project communicates what your products and services are all about.

So, it looks like it is time to put your cloths back on.  I think the magnificent Marilyn Monroe put it best when she said, “I don’t mind making jokes, but I don’t want to look like one.”  First and foremost, in any business you must be taken seriously.  Your customers don’t want to work with people who are not dressed for the part they are playing.  Appearance matters.  It always has and it always will. It sets expectations. It is something that we can control and in this uncertain economy, that should bring you some real comfort.  Not the kind of comfort that comes from wearing sweats, but the kind that comes from instilling confidence in your business and your product so that your valued customers will be willing to take a leap of faith with you.  It is that leap of faith that is going to drive the economic recovery that will determine our futures.   I think that’s definitely worth getting dressed for, don’t you?