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Formal warning for casual dressers

By Nick Easen for CNN
Smart-casual is more common, but formal dress could be making a comeback in the office.
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Hewitt Associates

(CNN) -- The trend towards informal workplace environments and the onset of warm weather in the northern hemisphere might encourage employees to dress for the beach rather than the office.

However, UK and Canadian businesses are rejecting casual dress codes and moving back towards more formal work attire, according to new research.

Thirty-seven percent of British directors now require staff to wear formal outfits at all times -- an eight percent increase on last year.

"Many (companies) in fact believe that (employees) are less effective in their jobs when 'dressed down'," says Khalid Aziz of Aziz Corporation, the executive communications consultancy who conducted the survey.

"As long as management provides clear guidance and shows a degree of flexibility in warmer conditions, office dress codes need not be a matter of dispute."

The poll of 100 company directors from predominantly blue chip companies found that casual dress is starting to fall out of favor.

Only 31 percent of UK businesses now allow staff to dress casually at all times, down by 10 percent from 2000.

Finance companies topped the poll, with 80 percent saying that staff should be formally dressed at all times, even when they are not meeting clients -- an increase of 38 percent on last year.

The survey also found that male directors look more favourably on short skirts; 37 percent said they were perfectly acceptable for work, compared with just 15 percent of female directors.

Cover up

Recently, a poll among 155 Canadian companies found that 84 percent of firms that have a casual outfit code said that they do not want employees to dress even less formally during the summer.

According to Hewitt Associates, the human resources firm who conducted the survey, some employers are now tightening up office dress codes, as the boundaries are pushed further during the warmer months.

Casual dress codes were hailed as a new trend for the post era, and a way to reduce office inequality and shirk off stuffy office attitudes.

To retain employees, some major firms that had always held traditional business-dress standards, adopted business-casual dress codes to meet with the changing times.

Back in 1999 in a U.S. study by Ceridian Employer Services on "work perks," 82 percent of employees said that casual dress was the best perk employers could offer.

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