That was probably the main reason for dressing up a bit in the first place. “When people came on site, we were selling the location, the team, the whole environment with people in the office,” Gebhard added.
Now, he says that many meetings with clients have gone virtual, lessening the pressure to button up.
Even without clients on site, Freed believes dress codes were just another part of office politics. “I think it’s psychological. Everyone’s back in the office, everyone’s trying to get ahead in their careers and show the bosses what they can do,” he said.
“I think that’s really where that dress came from. It’s just a part of your career trajectory, it’s a part of your overall being, and now that that is kind of out the window, there’s no reason to continue that.”
Other companies have been flexible, but with some caveats.
At Seegrid Corp., an Enlow, Pennsylvania-based provider of autonomous mobile robots for warehouses, employees who were able to work from home were happy to continue wearing their Seegrid-branded T-shirts and polos on Zoom meetings.
“During summer, I’m sure some employees wore shorts and flip-flops, but the Seegrid T-shirts and polos continued,” said Bud Leeper, people operations leader.
Moving forward, the dress code won’t change, but Leeper has noticed more employees interested in more options of Seegrid-branded apparel.
Clothing stores, too, are noticing employees’ shifting preferences. Last year, Maria McManus’s women’s boutique, Pursuits, was drowning in overstocked goods. “I was over-inundated with bottoms because nobody was buying bottoms. They were still Zoom calling,” she said.
Now, she’s hoping a 50% off sale combined with a return to the office will move inventory.