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How the Pandemic Has Changed Business Attire

Whether you work remotely or in an office, here’s what to know before you get ready each morning

We are currently in a very specific moment in history when the phrase of “office attire” may not mean the same thing to everyone. Recent studies show that nearly six out of ten people work from home at least one day a week. And while there has never been a universal business dress code, the pandemic has disrupted society’s understanding of office attire once companies sent their employees home to work remotely.  

Here are some ways the pandemic has changed business attire.

Dress codes have become more casual (and comfortable)

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, companies were forced to send their employees home to work remotely. Ever since mandatory work from home, there has been a major shift in companies’ dress codes. Once employees started working remotely and in typically more casual and comfortable clothing, companies realized a couple of things: maybe this remote work method was here to stay and maybe looser dress codes were there to stay with it.

Looser dress codes have even gained traction on Wall Street. So once employees returned to their offices, their workplace dress code was likely not the same as it was before the pandemic. Instead of high heels, people have optioned for flats. Instead of suits and ties, people have gone with a more relaxed button-up look. Workplace attire is growing more casual. And some companies are ditching dress codes altogether.

Employees are spending less money on their business attire

When business attire becomes more casual, odds are that employees spend less money on their clothing. According to a survey, Americans spent an average of $580 on work clothes in 2019. In 2020, they spent $399.

Unsurprisingly, remote workers spent even less on their work attire—paying an average of $139 on clothes per year—while over half of workers didn’t spend money on clothing at all.

Remote dress codes are less likely to be enforced

While in-person work is more likely to require a dress code, remote work’s dress code may still exist but is less likely to be enforced. This could be due to the likelihood of an employee being just as (or more) productive in clothes that don’t fall within a dress code.

According to a study done by Fast Company, workers’ own feelings of authenticity increased their engagement at work. Home attire increased authenticity—and engagement in return.

Additionally, dress codes are being reconsidered altogether due to the implication of gender-specific limitations. In fact, the Supreme Court has even ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity—making it more difficult for employers to enforce a strict, gender-based dress code.

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