What happens when front-of-house staff ditch their uniforms for their own clothes? Michael Schumacher reveals the results.
09 January 2019 | Michael Schumacher
The benefits of a more relaxed dress code include improved well-being, morale, performance and output and can also aid with staff retention and satisfaction.
However, it is rare that this dress code option is extended to front-of-house or reception staff. But when it comes to staff that make the first impression, how much bearing do the clothes they wear have on the image portrayed and the service delivered?
We partnered with one of our corporate FinTech clients to conduct a three-month trial in which we removed the dress code for the front-of-house staff at its HQ in central London.
The aim was to see if staff wearing their own clothes would have more self-confidence and, therefore, higher performance levels of customer service.
How it was implemented
Basic guidelines were put in place such as knee-length or longer skirts and dresses, trousers that were not too tight, necklines that were not too low, and make-up that was subtle.
The reception supervisor, in conjunction with the client, reviewed the appropriateness of the attire daily and feedback was to be given immediately to the receptionist in the event that anything was deemed unsuitable. All staff were reviewed on a monthly basis.
Feedback was drawn from staff, senior management and visitors. Feedback from staff was positive as they felt more relaxed, confident and comfortable. Feedback from senior management highlighted an improved level of service, greater interaction with visitors and staff.
A rise in positive feedback was also received about the front-of house team during the pilot. A fall in absenteeism was also noted; overall, reception staff appeared more relaxed and engaged.
The trial was regarded as a success and so the relaxed dress code became permanent.
Here's what to consider when implementing your own dress-down policy in the workplace:
Set out guidelines rather than a detailed policy. Talk to your staff before this is finalised. This will help to ensure that there is a clear understanding on both sides about what is appropriate and what is not.
Don't be afraid to provide specific examples of what types of attire will be considered acceptable. Providing a general understanding of what is expected from the business should help to clear up any confusion.
When it comes to implementing the change, most staff will be delighted to hear that a dress code has been relaxed. Others, however, may not agree, and gentle guidance should be offered to highlight the benefits. Communicate changes clearly. Once the decisions have been made as to what your dress code entails, be sure that everyone not only knows and understands what is expected of them but understands that reviews will be conducted.
Address problems as they occur. Be sure your HR team is on board and has a procedure in place to manage any bumps along the way. A stepped process is best. A gentle nudge in the right direction will often be enough to set people on the right track.
Trial, try and try again
If you do decide to alter your company dress code, remember that a trial period will allow you to assess the suitability for your organisation before you fully commit. It's vital to understand how well staff have taken to the change and also should enable you to iron out any wrinkles. Evaluate the progress. Revise if necessary, communicate effectively, provide open and honest feedback and then, if it's a success, implement on a permanent basis.
Final thoughtIt is vital to align your dress code to your business and culture. All businesses are different and all cultures individual. And remember, when recruiting new talent to your organisation, a casual dress code for many will be seen as a perk.
Michael Schumacher is account manager at Anabas