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Casual attire can hurt business productivity: book

May 27,2018 15:37

There is a structured discipline and intensity in doing business, and it's important to dress the part.” Even in the high-tech world, where suits and ties are conspicuous by their absence, there still is a need to dress for success, he said. “The ...


As Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer, many offices now will allow casual attire on more than just Fridays.
But there is a growing sentiment that dressing down leads to a loss of productivity in the workplace.
That’s the idea behind a new book by Vishal Agarwal, a former PricewaterhouseCoopers partner and GE managing director, who argues that more formal office dress serves to form a bond between employees and gets them to focus on work.
“People form impressions,” said Agarwal, whose recently released book, “Give to Get,” outlines some of his arguments against Casual Fridays and the growing tendency to extend the practice into the rest of the week.
“I want my team and myself to be properly dressed for battle. There is a structured discipline and intensity in doing business, and it’s important to dress the part.”
Even in the high-tech world, where suits and ties are conspicuous by their absence, there still is a need to dress for success, he said.
“The Valley has its own version of what I’d call ‘the uniform,’ and let’s not forget that even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg saw the need to dress up when testifying before Congress and the European Parliament,” Agarwal said. “He was trying to relate to his audience.”
Agarwal, who was born in Bombay, lived in Iran during the Iran-Iraq War, was educated in the US and now lives in Nairobi, Kenya, also argues that “the uniform” is becoming an important asset in a time of increasing diversity in the workplace and globalization of business relationships.
“Not everyone comes from the same culture,” he said. “A uniform cuts through all that.”
However, there are benefits to relaxing the office attire, according to some experts. For one, a dress-down day can be perceived as a fringe benefit that costs a company nothing.And Casual Fridays may also benefit employee morale and productivity.
“Although the tendency to have casual dress in the business world has been increased, this is not to say that the change has been bad,” wrote Sarah Maloney Hughes of The Master’s College in a research paper from 2002.
“Employees themselves are enjoying this alteration in the traditional corporate world. They have noticed some positive effects at work,” she wrote, citing a national survey of office workers showing that “41 percent felt casual dress improved worker productivity while only 4 percent perceived a negative impact … 51 percent said they did their best work when dressed casually.”
The pros and cons of casual office attire depend in part on the job and office in question, with less formal attire useful for completing tasks that focus on details, such as writing code or planning a product launch, said Mike Slepian, adjunct assistant professor at Columbia Business School and author of “The Cognitive Consequences of Formal Clothing.”
“It comes down to comfort level, and that’s where the camaraderie comes from,” he added.

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