Workers prefer casual dress code but get confused about what’s acceptable

WASHINGTON — The lines between appropriate office attire continue to blur,  and confusion about what’s expected is growing, according to an employee survey conducted by placement firm Robert Half International.

Its survey found 56 percent of employees prefer casual dress codes, but 41 percent admitted they are at least sometimes unsure about whether a piece of clothing is office-appropriate.

And many say they would rather be required to wear a standard uniform to work than think about their outfits.

“I know, I was so surprised, but it’s true. Our survey found 48 percent of employees would prefer to wear a uniform and never have to think about their office attire,” Beth Sears, branch manager at Robert Half in D.C. told WTOP.

“It makes mornings easier, less to worry about, less stressful and really just more focused on more important things like getting the job done, ” she said.

Policies for some office dress codes are pretty straight forward. Formal versus casual for example.

“Formal is very cut-and-dry. It is a suit, neutral colors, conservative footwear. Casual is going to be jeans, no T-shirts, but button downs, no sneakers but somewhat nice shoes,” Sears said.

The lines get blurry when the boss mandates business casual, but the top rule of thumb there is no jeans ever.

Interestingly, Robert Half’s survey found 54 percent of men, and 56 percent of workers ages 18 to 34 prefer formal attire more than their counterparts.

Casual continues to make inroads into workplaces that have traditionally required more formal attire.

The survey found 74 percent of CFOs said their accounting and finance employees have a somewhat or very casual dress code, and 23 percent say they’ve relaxed their attire guidelines over the last five years.

Robert Half surveyed about 2,600 workers employed in office environments and chief financial officers at companies in more than 20 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas. The surveys were done by telephone.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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