Casual Clothing Is Not Just for Fridays Anymore
Posted November 15, 1998 6:00 a.m. EST
RALEIGH — Nine out of 10 companies allow their employees to dress casually at least one day a week. But casual clothing is not just for Fridays anymore. It's a trend which managers say makes good business sense.
The style of dress is not the only thing that is casual at Csoft in Franklin County.
The overall atmosphere at the cutting edge software company iscasual. Like 53 percent of other offices across the United States, Csoft allows its employees to be casual every day.
"I think when people are comfortable, comfortable with their environment, comfortable with how they feel when they come to work, they're definitely more efficient and feel better about what they're doing," said Csoft manager Kevin Tigges.
And studies bear this out. TheSociety for Human Resource Managementsays 85 percent of managers report that a casual dress policy improves employee morale. Nearly 50 percent of managers believe it improves productivity.
"I can focus on my work and not have to worry about what do I have to wear today. Do I have to wear a dress? It just makes for a relaxed environment," said Csoft employee Stephanie Woodlief.
Especially in the competitive technology industry, employers say this is just one more incentive used to lure good people.
"I spent about 14 years at IBM wearing pin stripes and ties, and I've been out of that for 6 years and into the casual atmosphere," said Csoft employee Dennis Tackett.
"The job is not accepting me based on my dress but based on my performance. And that's the bottom line, your performance, not the way you dress," said Csoft Employee Keith Gardner.
The question is how far is too far? Wardrobe consultant Suzanne Libfraind says it's sometimes okay to push the envelope.
"This is a very crazy, artsy person, so what he's wearing is appropriate in his industry," said Libfraind.
She says the key is to be well-groomed and not to wear anything that would distract others.
"If you're wearing a 16 or 17 inch skirt, you better have great legs or be under 25," explained Libfraind.
For women, figuring out what business casual is can be very difficult. That's because there are so many choices. So you can't just look at something on the rack. You have to try it on.
While men can wear golf shirts and khakis to the casual office, women must spend more time coordinating their look.
And some studies predict that by the year 2000, 75 percent of office workers will be dressing like this everyday.
Most companies do have policies about what is appropriate casual dress. For example, short shorts, tank tops, spandex and flip flops are usually not allowed in any office.
But many managers admit they do allow employees a lot of leeway when it comes to the dress code.