The rise of casual dress benefits

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Employers are saying goodbye to casual Fridays and hello to casual everydays.

That’s according to new research from Randstad, which found that a vast majority (79%) of employers offer casual, business casual or no dress code at all. Employers are billing casual dress as a benefit as they seek new ways to attract and retain talent in a tight labor market, says Traci Fiatte, CEO of non-technical staffing at Randstad US.

“In recent years, flexibility in the workplace has increasingly been considered a valuable benefit by the workforce, especially in terms of flex hours and remote work. However, flexible doesn’t stop there — it’s seeping into all aspects of work, including fashion,” she says.

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Randstad found that employees care about comfort at work and if given the choice between two similar job opportunities, there’s a good chance they will be swayed to select the more casual environment, Fiatte says. Roughly 33% of employees in the survey say they would quit their job or turn down an offer if they were required to follow a strict dress code.

Casual dress also requires employees to spend less money on wardrobe and services such as dry cleaning, she adds.

“Dress code absolutely has a measurable impact on talent recruitment and retention,” she says.

About 88% of employers offered casual dress benefits in 2018, according to data from the Society for Human Resource Management. Indeed, a number of employers have updated their benefits to allow employees to wear streetwear in the office. For example, investment bank Goldman Sachs relaxed its dress code earlier in an effort to keep up with the “changing nature of workplaces,” according to an internal memo. Tech giants Facebook and Google, also offer the benefit to workers.

Americans attitudes toward clothing in general are changing, which may also be influencing the move toward more casual attire, Fiatte says. Trends such as athleisure have made it more commonplace for people to dress comfortably and while leggings still may not be considered office appropriate, it has made it more acceptable to wear casual clothing in the office, she says.

“The world is changing and employers, if they want top talent, need to change with it,” she says.

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Another factor that has influenced the rise of casual dress is flexible and remote work. Allowing workers to wear less formal clothing to work can be a nice perk for those who aren’t able to work remotely.

“Certainly, in an office environment, dress policies cannot be too lax, but there’s a wide range between a blazer and pajamas,” she says. “Companies should try to level the playing field whenever possible amongst their employees, and doing this with fashion is a great start.”

Employers are thinking more critically about the types of dress benefits they offer moving forward. If companies don’t offer these benefits, employees and candidates may view them more negatively, she says.

“It doesn’t mean that employers need to give people enough leeway to wear leggings to the office, but knowing how much people value comfortable clothing, that needs to translate in some way into dress code policy,” she says.

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