The nationally representative study of 2,000 UK adults reveals that one in ten people – and almost one in five employed in the creative industries and one in three working in technology – have considered quitting their job because of the dress code.
Specifically, 11% of the creative industry and 19% of the tech workforce say their company enforces a smart office dress code; 26% of those working in the ‘media and Internet’ sector have considered quitting their job over the dress code; 19% of people working in the creative industries also say the likelihood of being subjected to a dress code influenced their career choice; and 17% of people aged 18-24, across all industries, have considered quitting in protest at their dress code.
Jonny Challenger, founder of Style Compare, urges business to examine why they have dress codes in the first place.
“As our study shows, the vast majority of adults see little benefit in office dress codes and many resent being told how to dress.
“The problem worsens when people train for jobs that aren’t associated with strict dress policies – like coding, design or writing for example – but who then end up putting those skills to use in less progressive environments, like banking and insurance.
“The fact that Goldman Sachs recently had to ditch its dress policy to attract engineers away from Silicon Valley proves this.”
Professor Sir Cary Cooper, an expert in occupational health, has also issued a warning to businesses with strict dress codes about the psychological impact of enforcing them. He believes the disadvantages of enforcing a dress code far outweigh any possible benefits:
“Office dress codes can and often do discriminate against women, men, disabled people and gender nonconforming people. They cause anxiety, discomfort and ultimately – as the research suggests – they can make people want to leave their job. All of this for negligible, if any, benefit to the employer.
“Strict policies have only persisted so far due to the attitudes of senior leadership, who grew up with the idea that wearing a suit and tie to work was the only way.
“There’s scant evidence that dress codes have a positive impact on well-being, productivity or perceptions of an organisation.
“If dress codes did have a meaningful impact on productivity, why sacrifice productivity 20% of the year with dress down Friday?
“Organisations should trust people to dress how they please. If someone is smart enough to do the job, they’re most likely smart enough to dress appropriately without being told what to wear.”