by | Sep 15, 2022

What’s the new dress code for the Future of Work? After a few years of Zoom jackets on top and bedroom slippers on the bottom, employees heading back to the office don’t seem to be automatically reverting to suits and ties or high heels. One change seems to be placing a priority on comfort. But a desire for authenticity seems to be influencing work attire as well.

In The New Rules of Work Clothes, Allison Shapira’s recent piece in the Harvard Business Review, she describes a high-level executive in the financial services posting a photo of herself striding into her day wearing trim white pants and an African print blouse with a train that billowed behind her. Shapira followed up with that exec, Naima Judge of the Bank of America Private Bank, to ask about her willingness to cast aside the dark suits more typical in her industry.

Authenticity frees energy for other things

Judge said that it had started with a desire for comfort, but became more about wanting to set an example of representing herself in the clothes she wears and bringing her authentic self to the office. I love this excerpt from Shapira’s article:

“I asked her, “What benefit do you think this has on you personally and on your organization?” Her answer was illuminating: “It takes energy to not be your authentic self. If I can be more authentic, I can then use my energy to focus on my clients and uplift the people who report to me.” 

New dress code at UPS

Many years ago, when UPS was first introducing a more flexible dress code, they asked Tribe to help communicate the change to employees. We were a little surprised to find that the reaction of many employees was anxiety rather than anticipation. They had spent so many years acquiring dark suits (many of them brown!) that they just couldn’t fathom what a work wardrobe would look like otherwise. If women didn’t have to wear close-toed shoes, did that mean they could wear flip flops? If men no longer had to wear a jacket when walking around the office, could they wear shorts? We extended our communications plan to include hiring a professional stylist to address common concerns and creating shopping one-pagers with the basics of a business casual wardrobe. Employees wanted much more granular instruction than anyone had expected.

I haven’t been over to UPS HQ in a long time, but I have a feeling employees there are much more comfortable today wearing clothes that express their authentic selves, rather than the items suggested for them on a visual shopping list. One of the most encouraging features of the Future of Work is that there seems to be a strong trend for workplace cultures supporting more authenticity. (For more on what employees want the Future of Work to provide, try this Best Practices one-pager.)

Interested in promoting authenticity in your organization? Tribe can help.

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