The latest workplace dress codes -- and 7 questions to ask yourself about what to wear to work

short skirt at work
short skirt at work

Photo: iStock

Showing too much skin was the second most common dress code violation at work, according to the study.

If a fair number of your colleagues have thrown caution to the wind when it comes to work clothes, so have a lot of others. According to a new study, the longtime norm of dressing up for the office has given way to (way) more casual attire.

In a new survey of senior managers and employees conducted by staffing agency OfficeTeam, a full 50 percent of managers said employee attire is less formal than it was five years ago. Of that 50 percent, 32 percent said employee dress was somewhat less formal, and 18 percent said employee dress was much less formal.

These results are in line with office worker responses about their preferred professional dress code. Thirty-one percent of employees said they'd rather be at a company with a business casual dress code, while 27 percent said they favor a casual dress code or no code at all.

Although casual dressing at work seems to be a trend, the survey also shows that certain dress code boundaries should not be crossed. According to senior managers, the most common dress code violation at work was overly casual clothing (47 percent), followed by showing too much skin (32 percent). The next: visible tattoos or piercings (Millennials take note!). No mention, however, of women wearing heels or not.

The findings are based on responses of more than 300 senior managers at U.S. companies with 20 or more employees and more than 350 U.S. workers 18 years or older and employed in office environments.

Overall, says Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam, "employees should take their cues from company guidelines and what others in the office are wearing. Some industries, for example, are more formal than others. A casual dress code doesn't mean that anything goes. Staff should always look professional and project an image that reflects positively on the business."

With summer upon us, it's tempting to choose work clothes that are comfortable and help us stay cool. So it's important to realize what constitutes workplace-appropriate dressing. OfficeTeam recommends asking ourselves these questions:

  1. Does this follow company policy? If there's a written dress code, abide by it. Also consider what your manager and co-workers wear, and use that information to guide your choices.

  2. Am I revealing too much? If you have to ask yourself this question, the answer is likely "yes." Avoid clothes that show too much skin, and err on the side of caution when displaying tattoos or piercings.

  3. Is this distracting? Wearing wild or bright prints can attract attention for the wrong reasons. In most workplaces, neutral colors and simple patterns, such as pinstripes, are a safe bet.

  4. Am I overdoing it? Take a subtle approach to jewelry, makeup, perfume and cologne. Also note that unconventional hair colors or styles and unkempt facial hair may be frowned upon at more conservative companies.

  5. Do I feel confident? If you're uncomfortable in your outfit, it'll show. Make sure your clothes fit well and don't require a lot of readjusting.

  6. Will I offend anyone? Steer clear of wearing apparel with profanity, political statements or other questionable material.

  7. Does it pass the final check? Give yourself a once-over from head to toe. Look out for wrinkled, torn or stained garments and scuffed shoes.

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