Are Workplace Dress Code Policies Changing?

“Red Hat is an open organization, accepting of people and how they choose to express themselves. Whether you have tattoos or piercings, we want people to feel comfortable and free to be who they are here. In fact, we have at least three associates who are so passionate about our role in changing the world through open source technology they have gotten tattoos of our company logo: Shadowman. How many organizations can say the same?”

 Jim Whitehurst, President & CEO of Red Hat

Granted, all companies are not going to be quite so accepting of employees expressing themselves however they choose, whether that be with decorative facial piercings and neck tattoos or a casual dress code every day of the week (sweatshirts and flip-flops anyone?). But, it is clear that there has been a shift in the importance placed on traditional dress codes and personal appearance clauses in employee handbooks, as well as in the office itself. Gone are the days of suits and ties for most organizations, as more and more employees embrace body art in various forms and fashions. But what does this cultural shift mean for a traditional company who values the boundaries and lines drawn by dress code policies? What does this mean for hospitality organizations who must cater to a certain public and with that, a perception of who and what their employees represent?

While unemployment rates are still high, qualified candidates are able to be selective about the company they choose to work for. So what makes one company more desirable than another? For someone with extensive body art, perhaps a flexible dress code policy would be enticing when it comes to the company culture and extra benefits of the workplace. Leaders at Glassdoor note that they want their employees to be able to feel authentic at work, and not have to put on a front or cover things up. In order to encourage an environment that fosters creativity and authenticity, embracing your employees as they are is a step in the right direction.

However, 42% of people in the workforce today (according to a December 2015 survey by still believe tattoos should be covered up in the office. Of course, amongst the younger crown (18 – 25 year old employees) only 22% believe those tattoos should be covered. So times are changing, and the culture at work is shifting. But tread lightly, as anytime you draw a line in the sand, there will be someone there wanting to challenge the rules. Make sure anything you put in writing in your employee handbook or policy manual is backed by legislation and that you are not infringing on anyone’s personal rights of religious expression or stereotyping certain individuals.

For more on this controversial topic, check out the thoughts of one of our favorite bloggers @EvilHRLady Suzanne Lucas here: