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| 1 minute read

Sweats or suits? Dress code rules are a microcosm of meeting employees where they are

Admit it: If you’ve worked at home for most of or all of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve found yourself slipping into sweatpants and slippers more frequently. Hey, so long as your top half looks professional for Zoom calls, right?

However, as more companies are beginning to develop return-to-work plans, employees may have to start ditching their sweats for suits as they return to office environments. But are we heading back fully to the professional norms of pre-pandemic life? Probably not.

"I don't think all workplaces are going to have the dress codes that they had before, because it's just not the life that we're living anymore," Alexis DeSalva Kahler, senior retail and e-commerce research analyst at market research firm Mintel, told Inc.

In a way, the conversation over office attire mirrors the larger conversation around work models and the future of work. Many companies are considering a “hybrid approach” that would blend remote and in-office work. My colleague Chris Pardo had an interesting post recently that looks at the debate many organizations are having right now about what exactly the hybrid model looks like.

While sweats vs. slacks isn’t as big of a deal as whether someone has to come into an office or not, a company’s position says a lot about its culture and values. Some organizations might opt for a complete return to business attire, just as some companies will require 100% of employees to return to an office. Other organizations will take a more flexible, middle-ground approach with both.

We have similar questions facing us in mobility. During the rise of the pandemic, many programs supported “de-locations,” or employees moving away from job locations and working remotely. Flexibility (as well as employee safety) dominated the discussion.

Should our teams now return to more traditional, pre-pandemic modes of operation? There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer — you need to do what best fits your corporate culture. But continuing to provide flexibility — both in dress codes and mobility benefits — does go a long way toward meeting employees where they are. This can improve their experience on the job and (hopefully) keep them engaged with your company.

As the global pandemic has kept people out of the office--and mostly in their homes--pajamas and athleisure wear have become the new slacks and button-downs. The question is, as vaccination rates rise and people start trickling back into work, will they be willing to part with their sweatpants? 


remote work, future of work, future workforce, business strategy, de-location, hybrid work model, mobility, hr, employee experience, corporate culture