As the mercury keeps rising, office workers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area may be feeling the heat.
At times, workplace dress code policies and the heat of summer appear to be at odds in professional environments, particularly in areas where the heat index regularly tops the 100-degree mark. Even if businesses allow for a more casual dress code during the hot summer months, employees are sometimes challenged when it comes to balancing their efforts to remain cool while maintaining a professional appearance. Unsurprisingly, the line between appropriate and inappropriate work attire occasionally gets crossed.
With nearly eight weeks of summer remaining (and no doubt longer than that until a serious cool-down), employees and employers alike may benefit from some dress code tips to make sure a company maintains its professional appearance while employees attempt to beat the heat.
Companies typically set the expectation that their workers will maintain a professional appearance, whether or not they are explicitly told to do so. However, expectations should never be assumed. Businesses should have a clearly outlined and up-to-date dress code policy in place, and the policy should be easily accessible to all employees. For example, the policy might be included in an employee handbook that all staff members are required to sign on their first day. In addition, some companies may choose to place all their internal policies – including dress code policies – on the company’s intranet site.
But even when companies are highly proactive in making their employee policies known, additional efforts may be required. A friendly email reminder about the dress code policy sent to all employees prior to or during the hot summer months helps ensure that workers are armed with the necessary information they need to make good judgments.
In addition, leadership should proactively train managers and supervisors on how to properly address the situation if they observe an employee dressed inappropriately. It is a good idea to brush up on this training annually. If there is a dress code violation, it should be managed carefully, using the same protocol and channels as any other human resources-related incident. A comprehensive employee handbook definition of appropriate workplace attire can greatly assist this process.
Workers, on the other hand, should not rely solely on their employer to determine what they should and should not wear. Even in the hottest months, professionals should use their best judgment and err on the side of caution if they are on the fence about an article of clothing.
Here are a few common rules employees should remember when it comes to office attire:
• Shorts are too casual for most offices. Some employers may consider capris as an appropriate choice, though. Out of an abundance of caution, double check with management before wearing them to the office.
• It should go without saying that anything revealing an undergarment is unacceptable. Even the most casual work environments would find that inappropriate.
• Flip flops need to stay out of the office. They’re far more appropriate when heading to the beach or swimming pool.
• Strapless tops are best left at home during the workday. Even spaghetti straps or tank tops should be worn with caution, and usually with a shawl or sweater.
A company’s culture and the employee’s specific job duties will also help determine what is considered appropriate attire. For example, a law firm with employees who are regularly in court or meeting with clients will likely have a stricter policy than a call center. During the sweltering summer months, employees and employers alike should be reminded that following the dress code is a serious issue that needs to be prioritized, regardless of climate.
Phil Chelf is a district manager in the Fort Worth office of Insperity, a nationwide company specializing in human resources services for businesses. For more information, www.insperity.com.