Are Uniforms the key to Productivity?

Many employees will debate the necessity of retail uniforms in their roles. Over time, employees of varying industries have kitted themselves out with what their employers think is both practical for more industrious-based jobs and smart in client-facing jobs.

With an insight from Jermyn Street Design, a brand at the forefront of producing bespoke uniforms for companies such as Pandora and Jet 2, we will determine the impact of a dress code on the productiveness of a typical working day.  

Long established traditions

Uniforms have been part of employment for centuries, starting off as a simple badge. Those delivering important messages or items would typically wear a badge with the emblem of the royalty which they served. It was a way of proving the legitimacy of the workers themselves, as well as giving workers such as merchants authority, to prove that their items are of higher quality. Though this was common centuries ago, the durability of them wasn’t up to the standards that they are today, so many of them did not survive. However, these badges were the start of the uniform tradition that would go onto become mainstream.

Liveries soon followed as a work uniform, often designed with family insignias used to indicate to whom the employee was serving. Typically, this type of uniform was popular throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, and many retail uniforms today still have similarities where brand logos are concerned.

The secret to a good mindset

Uniforms can implement a sense of belonging to employees, whereas having no dress code is also praised for allowing employees a sense of self-expression while working. It reminds them that they’re part of a team too, proudly representing the brand. Deploying a uniform could also harness team spirit, creating unity and fostering that feeling of belonging.

The ability to express yourself through clothing often comes at a cost though, and this can place employees in a financial predicament. Scientific research has also shown that those in formal clothes tend to perform better in situations than those in casual clothes, although this does not account for all industries. But opposing research has also found that 61% of employees are more productive at work when the dress code is relaxed. However, we all appreciate that certain roles must have a uniform, for instance the police, in order to be both recognised, and to allow them to do their job, with police woman requiring womens tactical pants so that they can give chase and tackle suspects if need be.

Offices which require employees to wear suits have their reasoning rooted in psychology. In a study by Social Psychological and Personality Science, subjects were asked to dress in either casual, everyday clothing or formal business dress, before going on to take part in cognitive tests. It was found that those in business dress showed an increase of abstract thinking when compared to those who remained casual — the findings of the experiment suggest the effects are related to feelings of power and authority, in turn granting confidence.

Should businesses embrace having a dress code or not?

The argument on both sides of the uniform debate is even, as evidence has found no major advantage on either side. As a generalisation, dress codes in non-industry roles are approached differently by the individual; some people like the creativity and flexibility of not having a dress code enforced at their workplace, but others like dressing up to feel as though they are in a more formal working environment.

Getting dressed in the morning can be a time-consuming part of the day, hence why many people reserve a stock wardrobe for their working week. Steve Jobs was known for his black turtleneck jumper, jeans and New Balance trainers, and Mark Zuckerberg for his daily grey t-shirt, with their arguments stating that it lowers their decision-making process and allows for more brainpower on their day-to-day roles.

Customer service roles can often benefit from having a uniform, as it distinguishes staff from guests in environments such as hotels, leisure parks and airlines. But if smaller businesses were to adopt a ‘wear what makes you comfortable’ dress code, where health and safety isn’t concerned, this would perhaps encourage a more relaxed environment in the workplace.

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