Can you give goodwill to dirty clothes
How can I make a compelling case for an open dress code?
There is enough evidence on both sides that I do not believe that "irrefutable evidence can be found that a very casual dress code is consistently a win for Job X". But there are still ways to get what you want ... here are some ideas.
Know your limitations
There are several main reasons why companies set a dress code: - bad experiences in the past - a desire to create an image in front of the customer - a management mentality about what is "appropriate" - a belief that "sloppy" clothes will become lead to sloppy behavior.
It sounds like you already have the big pro - employee satisfaction - helping with both retention and recruitment. Perhaps you can make a sale where comfort also translates into less stress and better health - but I don't know you can do generally agreed studies to assist you there. The big ones are usually what you mention - employees like it.
So, first know who and what you are up against. Has your company had bad experiences with casual wear in the past? If so, why and what can you do to mitigate this? Is it really HR that is the "no" or is there a senior executive who likes to dress up? What are your restrictions on customers? Don't be tightly focused - just because you don't meet with customers in person doesn't mean they won't go through and judge you.
Learn why you need to dress formally before entering the meeting so you are prepared for why your idea is working and the big issues are covered.
Trying to escalate something small and not so scary as a casual wear testing ground with the option can help reduce anxiety when you find yourself on a cycle where "we've never done it before and change is bad". Let's say an occasional Friday every week, or a month-long trial and evaluation. Or the choice to have a specific group do that - maybe those who have to do a lot of uncomfortable work so that it is at least a special treat at first.
Staging it as a test with a plan for demonstrable results can suggest an alternative to all or nothing. If it proves popular and not detrimental to business, you have a real-world example of why it works and you can expand it.
Changing almost any policy requires a lot of informal work in almost any organization. Setting the rule the first time is easy, changing expectations is difficult. Prepare for many briefings before and after meetings. Realize that people in public groups may not express opinions, even if those opinions are very strong. Allow them to speak to you and raise concerns both publicly and privately. Realize that in the end you will change people's minds one at a time ...
Give people something to go to instead of avoiding it. For example, with casual clothing one could say any statement:
- We're not a stuffy old-school company with formal, uncomfortable attire. We don't adhere to these outdated norms.
- We are a young, hip company that reacts to the changing times and wants to present an everyday image of man that customers and employees alike perceive as non-threatening and accessible.
Which one sounds nicer to be a part of? Even if you like formal attire, the second point sounds worth considering.
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