(Expansion) – As workers head back to the office, many have dug out old suits, button-down shirts, dresses, and “office-appropriate” heels from the back of their closets. During the pandemic, those work outfits were collecting dust in the back of the wardrobe and few found use during the lockdown.
We know that first impressions are important – dress code often contributes to first impressions – however, the pandemic taught us that there are other ways to make a good impression beyond physical appearances and dress code. Seeing a person in the face, with low-quality video zoomed in in a dark room, will not help us generate an opinion about a colleague.
Instead, people have had to focus on driving conversations with better, higher-quality content, rather than relying on a few key points like body language or dress code to create an opinion of their co-workers. In a way, our unconscious bias had far less material to work with in the world ruled by Zoom than in the real office.
In various companies, while adopting what was known as the “new way of working”, we had to deal with those same dilemmas and, although in many companies there has never been a dress code, while we meet with colleagues and meet others by first time in person, some of us have even wondered what the most appropriate outfit is for returning to the office.
I believe that while we find an answer to that dilemma, we must stick to the core values of companies to solve it.
In the corporate world, one reason there are strict dress code rules is to remove individuality from your workers. Ensuring that all employees dress similarly is a way to homogenize them so that their sole purpose is to be that, “a worker” and not themselves. Individuality – and therefore diversity – far from being encouraged, is discouraged.
In many companies we love to see how diverse our work teams are and we seek to generate incentives so that they come to the offices dressed as they are, so that they are more comfortable and feel more like themselves. As we know, and it was reinforced during the pandemic, the way a person dresses, their hair color, the number of rings they wear or how tight their pants are, are not indications of a person’s credibility or the level of your skills.
Historically, women have suffered from these prejudices for the longest time: the way we dress has been used against us in the workforce (thinking that a woman has less credibility because her skirt is too short), to justify harassment sexually (the frequently asked question: what was she wearing when she was sexually abused?) or even in schools (men can wear shorts but as a woman it is better not to show too much of your legs).
Therefore, it is even more important for women to feel that their value and credibility as professionals is not affected by how they feel most comfortable in their clothing.
As we continue our journey to the “new way of working”, we must embrace our diversity and our value base by not dressing to impress, but as ourselves. That is what makes a company special and shows that its values are not just “words on a wall” but attitudes and practices that they live and carry out every day.
Editor’s Note: Angelique Marie V Wynants is Head of Mexico CX (Customer Experience) at Nu Mexico. Follow her on . The opinions published in this column belong exclusively to the author.