Feb 15, 2017

Businesses offering greater flexibility in workplace attire

Photo credit to owner
By Casey Smith Tulsa World

When Tulsa Federal Credit Union changed its dress code at the beginning of this year, the response from employees was overwhelmingly positive.

But the way that everyone dressed following the policy change, the credit union’s senior vice president and chief HR officer said, didn’t seem to be all that different.

Teri Aulph said that when she pointed that out to a credit union employee commenting on the change, his response surprised her. It wasn’t really about the clothes. Instead, he said, it was the fact that senior management trusts the team to decide what they should be wearing to work.

“Trust is one of our core values, and I think that was an unexpected outcome,” Aulph said.

Tulsa Federal Credit Union’s 200 employees used to be required to adhere to a business casual dress code. Jeans, for example, were only allowed on Fridays.

But as of Jan. 1, the financial institution has started to allow its employees who don’t work directly with credit union members to wear what they choose to work, as long as the outfit is appropriate and isn’t overly exposing. Tulsa Federal is providing employees who work directly with credit union members, like tellers, branded polo shirts that they can wear with jeans or other bottoms of their choosing.

“I think things are changing, and you have to change with them,” Aulph said. “I think the days are gone where there was a stern dress code.”

The decision came after CEO Greg Gallant attended a conference that discussed culture in the workplace and has already had an impact on happiness, collaboration and productivity, Aulph said.

Tulsa Federal Credit Union is just one of many companies creating a corporate culture that removes rigidity from the way employees are expected to dress for work.

Resolute PR’s owner and founder Nicole Morgan said she noticed that jeans and a more casual look seem to have become increasingly accepted in business settings but wondered if it was because her firm’s offices are at 36 Degrees North, an entrepreneurial hub in downtown’s Brady Arts District. She did some research and found that it wasn’t just her experience. In many cases, casual attire like jeans is becoming the norm in business.

The clothes people choose to wear can be a huge part of the brands that people create for themselves and their companies, Morgan said.

And although there are some settings and meetings that will always require traditional business dress, a more casual look — like one built on basics of nice jeans and blazers — can be just right for many professionals, she said.

“The advice that I would give other people is just thinking about ‘How do you want to be perceived?’” Morgan said. “If you were looking at yourself in that meeting, how would you perceive yourself based on the way that you’re dressed?”

Morgan doesn’t have a dress code for the nine-member team at Resolute but said that they try to create an image that reflects they’re approachable and hard-working.

“Relatable but put-together,” Morgan said.

“That’s a fine line, and I think that’s kind of where jeans come in. Because you can have like jeans with holes in them, or you could have jeans that could pass as slacks — (the latter) is kind of the gray area where I feel like I need to be. Because the other part of it is in my industry, you never know what a day is going to be like. You could get a call that you’re going to have to go to some meeting with somebody really important, and if you’re not dressed prepared for that meeting then you could kind of put yourself at a disadvantage.”

Casey Smith
Twitter: @casey_garrison

Original source: Tulsa World

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