Interesting perspectives: Casual Vs Formal

As part of an Effective Leadership class I am taking this term, yesterday’s class ended with a discussion of corporate culture. As we meandered through different topics the one thing that kept coming back to my mind was the discussion on how companies were termed conservative because of their dress codes.

As I have mentioned here many times before clothes affect me a lot. I am scared of trying new things and each time I see a smartly dressed woman in formal clothes, stockings, heels etc I think I can never be this person. Yesterday however, some people brought up this point that when dressed in formals, they seem to be more productive. Companies with casual dress code on Fridays seemed to see a decline in productivity. My immediate thought was “Duh! It’s Friday! What do you expect?”

However, these people come from a background where the company took two years to decide for a casual code for Friday’s and most people who are in my class are managers themselves and felt casual dress code equalled less productivity.

Since I am from the complete opposite end of the spectrum and casual clothes are the norm for me, formals are reserved for occasions like job interviews and presentations in front of strangers. I found it fascinating to hear these different points of view. I am not sure about the productivity aspect though. I wonder if the “change” from what is the norm that causes people to focus more on what is different or it is truly that casual clothes tend to make us less focused? I have no clue if my productivity will go up if am dressed in formals but I sure know I will be fussing about how I look rather than focus on my work πŸ™‚

What do you good folks think?

17 comments

  1. Am exactly like you…when I look at elegantly dressed,prim and proper people whose hair is always in place (how do they do that)I always wonder if I can ever be like them.I mean I don’t dress shabby but am always in casual, comfortable clothes.And though I would love to dress formal, I will be worried about how am looking etc and all that…actually when one dresses his/her taste I feel productivity is more since unless we are comfortable in our skin we can’t concentrate. what say?

  2. Don’t know, I personally think people dressed in formals appear professional. I love the formal skirts or trousers with jackets. I think it makes a person look smart. When I look it maybe I will work it?!? I have not been in that situation. Should get a job first…besides in India…it does not matter.
    Men in formals really do look good. Maybe was brought up like that. My brother and dad both dress in formals when at work. Not the whole jing bang of blazer…but at least the dress pants and full sleeve shirts. But that is me πŸ™‚ I love lounging in my PJs or yoga pants or nighties at home; but at work – I would love to be in formals πŸ˜€ It definitely does make an impression. It is tough to maintain that hair in place( I don’t know how…but would like it that way!) πŸ™‚

  3. Laksh, I think that may be true – productivity connection with formal dress – for the work they do. I think for managers, formal dress is important – helps them make their impact on their team as well as outside clients. Their confidence level goes up when they know thet look good and formal.But for programmers, I think what is important is to be comfortable and at home and think – it is much less about making an impact on somebody. I personally value my comfort the most and wont feel comfy in formals. But on occasions, I have worn them, I felt my confidence does go up and I wonder I should wear them more often.

  4. Apar is right about workplace dress codes. Dressing to the occasion, be it in workplace or outside is important and I think first impressions always make for lasting ones. So in a workplace, taking up a leadership role where interaction with clients and people tend to be more, formal attire can leave long lasting impressions…productive work defers from role to role doesn’t it ? Formal attire can build that extra confidence no casual clothing can ever achieve…I feel most confident when I am dressed my best, I feel I could easily approach people, take command of any situation when I look my best at the workplace – cool and confident formals sees me through Monday to Thursday. I really associate comfy causuals with fridays where I can let down my hair and have a longer lunch break than usual…

  5. Laksh,

    Like others, I too agree that dressing up at work does make a big difference here. Too casual is never appreciated, unless your company culture is a bay area start up where you have your managers come in shorts and sandals. Usually, dressing per the seasons, wearing the right colors etc. makes a positive appearance and makes you feel more important and to do better at work. Just my 2 cents.

  6. All my working life, I’ve had to dress in business suits. This became a norm for me and never even thought twice about it ….. until my last job. This company had casual Fridays,.. and I was stumped! It took me a while to get used to the idea of being able to wear casuals to the workplace,.. and funnily enough I found it enjoyable. It made Fridays more relaxing (and possibly less productive),.. but that was the idea (I think).

    My view: I agree with what you have written in your last para. It is the “change” from the “norm” that makes oneself focus on what is different, and not the clothes themselves.

  7. I am with Anamika, UL & Mitr on this one for sure; I sure feel my confidence level go up and feel more professional on those rare occasions, but not so sure about productivity. Of course, living in the bay area the only time, I end up wearing formals is for interviews or presentations etc, which aren’t many. That said, even on days when I think I am dressed well (with little makeup), I feel confident and have the I-am-on-top-of-the-world feeling πŸ™‚

  8. hm interesting topic Laksh.
    Imho, I think productivity depends on the person and whether he likes his job. Only folks that dont like their job need motivation through external factors like clothes!!

    Formals for work is like uniform for kids, we dont need to be discpilined like kids in my opinion. We should be mature enough to know our duties and priorities.

  9. I too agree it depends on the company/group’s culture. Within our group everyone was dressed in casuals that people did not wear casuals unless there was a specific reason (presentations or meeting a client, etc). Personally, I always felt good if I am dressed neatly and I am comfortable in my clothes. My productivity always depended on the project and people I was working with :-).

  10. Clothes does matter.Personally, M-Thu I wear formals with dress pants, jacket and little bit of make up(oh boy, how do they do the hair, I wonder too). My job requires me to work with C’levels to reception and meetings with auditors, suppliers and of course customers. I feel comfortable and confident when I am in formals. Friday mostly on casuals with the exception of japanese clients. I don’t necessarily agree with ‘formals and comfortable do not sync’.comfortable is a personal perception while formal is much more generic. On productivity, i don’t agree that productivity decreases with casuals. In my experience, in the crowd, person formally dressed is much more in command or gets that first impression like UL said.
    oh tomorrow saturday, jeans day!! no ironing..

    good weekend Laksh!( and to all fellow comment makers)
    shy

  11. Ohk, I have never been through this. But according to me, dressing in formals is better than going to work in casuals. It does set a sense or professionalism and “work environment”. As far as comfort level is concerned, you will get used to it anyway! Most of us hated our school uniform but didnt we get used to it? Infact, i miss my school uniform nowadays! And plus, if “comfort” was the issue, why not wear shorts or PJs to office? They are even more comfortable but that isnt allowed! Besides, as everybody said, it does set an impression!
    I have no idea on the productivity issue though.

  12. “, some people brought up this point that when dressed in formals, they seem to be more productive. ”

    This just made me laugh. I am not undermining the effect of good clothes on a person but stretching its effect on productivity is pushing it far.

    On the other hand, in school we were allowed to be in non-uniform:) on saturday and that made it seem more like holiday, so may be that’s what the new casual code for Friday’s did to those employees.
    I still find it hard to believe people with their life dependent paycheck need any other remainder. PRoductivity is directly proportional to the pressure.

  13. @Rupa: Agree with you. I was surprised people felt business formals helped with productivity.
    @sl: With you on that! πŸ™‚
    @Apar: I understand and agree formals/biz casuals do look impressive but am not sure they impact productivity.
    @Anamika: Good point. The nature of job decides what kind of clothes improve productivity
    @UL: πŸ™‚ You have expressed it well. Productivity differs from role to role and there are some that benefit from dressing up
    @Mitr: Agreed. The problem is my mgrs here are mostly in sports jerseys and shorts πŸ™‚
    @Spillay: I still do believe it is the change that causes productivity to dip. πŸ™‚
    @Akay: I think it is true of most IT firms bay area or otherwise.
    @SK: In an ideal world yes πŸ™‚ Wonder if dressing up makes people more aware of their goals?
    @naan: Nice point. Productivity also depends on the work and the people you work with.
    @Shy: Hope you had a great weekend. I agree in a job desc like yours productivity might be tied to how the people you interact with perceive you.
    @Sachita: ha! very nice analogy. Gotta revisit the whole topic πŸ™‚

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