In the professional world, dress codes are used to impose social standards, order and uniformity in the workplace. But somewhere in the midst of these ties and buttoned-up blouses, a new report has found that something gets lost —our will to keep working at these companies.
Fashion website Style Compare surveyed 2,000 adults in the U.K. about office dress codes. Their finding: across ages and genders, the majority of participants agreed that dress codes have no upside. In fact, a whopping 61% of those surveyed said that there was “no positive impact” to having a dress code. Although the majority of everyone interviewed said there was nothing “positive” about dress codes, some young people took that statement further and said they would even consider quitting if a company forced them to dress a certain way.
Millennials would consider quitting over a strict dress code
The unhappiness with dress codes was strongest with millennials, the demographic group most likely to consider leaving a job over an office dress code. Around 18% of people ages 18 to 24 said that a strict dress code would make them consider quitting their jobs.
About one in every five millennial employees said a strict dress code would even be a factor in choosing their careers.
Professor Sir Cary Cooper, an occupational health expert, said that the generational differences could be due to outdated attitudes on what is appropriate to wear at work.
“Strict policies have only persisted so far due to the attitudes of senior leadership, who grew up with the idea that wearing a suit and tie to work was the only way,” Cooper said. “There’s scant evidence that dress codes have a positive impact on well-being, productivity or perceptions of an organization.”
So what were the areas of uniform that really irked participants? Style Compare didn’t get hard numbers on this, but recent cases have shown that for U.K. women, the pressure point is around shoes.
U.K. dress codes gained national attention this year when Nicola Thorp was sent home from her job at PriceWaterhouseCoopers for refusing to comply with the 2-4 inch heeled shoe mandate for women. She got over 150,000 people to sign a Parliament petition making it illegal to be forced to wear high heels by your employer, but the government ultimately decided not to change legislation.
“When employers are allowed the freedom to decide what is fair and unfair it tends to be women that lose out,” Thorp said about the government’s decision.