What do millennials think about workplace dress codes?

By now, most HR leaders realize that, in the workplace, millennials often are a study in contrasts.

For example, researchers have found that, while millennials push for more flexibility and remote-work options, many also report loneliness while working from home. A new survey from global staffing firm Randstad US finds the same contrasting thinking apparently goes for workplace fashion as well.

Among other results of the survey, while 38% of millennials (25-35 years old) say they’ve been told to dress more professionally by a manager or HR–implying their work wardrobes trend too casual–a majority (63%) say they prefer dressing up for work as it boosts their confidence and performance; only 51% of older workers agree with that latter view.

Overall, the findings–based on an OmniPulse survey of 1,204 working adults and fielded by national polling firm Research Now on behalf of Randstad–not only revealed that casual dress appears to be the new norm in most workplaces, but also that a third of respondents are completely resistant to formal work wear altogether. In fact, 33% overall said they’d quit their job (or turn down a job offer) if they were required to follow a conservative dress code.

“There’s an interesting disconnect around younger workers: Most associate dressing up with more confidence and better work performance, but nearly 40% also report they’ve had a manager speak to them about dressing more professionally,” says Traci Fiatte, CEO, non-technical staffing at Randstad US. “The bottom line is, as long as employees dress in a way that’s consistent with their employer’s policies, most managers care less about what their employees wear than about their performance and work output.”

Returning to how millennials view workplace fashion, 40% of those surveyed say they would rather spill coffee on themselves before a big meeting than show up wearing the same outfit as their boss.

“The nature of work–where, when and how it gets done–has changed dramatically over the past several years, and many of those changes [open offices, remote work] have ultimately contributed to a less formal workplace,” Fiatte adds. “It’s great to empower your employees to dress for their day, as well as show their personality, but it is equally important for employers to set some clear guidelines to ensure that everyone feels comfortable.”

Note: For more interesting perspectives about who millennials really are and how you can best position all your people for success, sign up for “Are Millennials Ruining the Workforce?” at this year’s HR Technology Conference & Expo. The session, set for 11 a.m. Oct. 3, will feature Jill Strange, vice president of human capital management science applications at Infor


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Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.