It’s likely that during the lockdowns has been—a bit more casual than your traditional office. Whether your workforce consists of people wearing button down shirts and pajama pants, the people who will dress up for Zoom calls, or the people who haven’t shown their face on camera since April, many have gotten comfortably dressed in their routines.

But is that the best for them? Is it the best for your firm? What happens when you begin slowly moving people back into the office? Today, we look to explore our take on a recent article in Going Concern aptly titled, “You Better Put Pants on Before Your Firm Decides to Implement a Work From Home Dress Code.”

The Unforeseen Challenge and the Importance of Professionalism

Whether you just started safely heading back to the office, started the planning phases of a move back, or have delayed your return, it’s likely that some of your staff will be working from home for the foreseeable future.

But what happens when you do start moving people back to the office? How do you prevent unprofessional behavior and dress? How about the challenges to morale? It’s one of the questions that leaders and HR staff will need to tread on reasonably soon.

Not Much Time to Think about Attire

Gonzalez notes, “Given the abrupt nature of the lockdown in spring, it stands to reason that firms didn’t have much time to think about what an entire workforce billing hours at home would look like from a management perspective. Bad managers’ neuroses aside, one area we’re sure no one really considered was the work-from-home dress code.”

The Naked Truth: Employees Might be Taking a Lack of Dress Code a Bit Far

In fact, even in May, when people were still adjusting to the new normal, 10 percent of professionals admitted to showing up to Zoom calls in pajamas or less, to which Gonzalez adds, “it might be worse than that now,”  citing a recent CouponFollow survey of slightly more than 1,000 remote workers found a whopping 29% of respondents admitted to working naked while at home. Add to this the recent CNN legal analyst whose misdeeds went even further, and it might be time to look at changes.

From Fully-Remote to Partially On-Site

Whenever the lockdowns end, this is going to be a discussion you need to have. At some point, employers are going to start moving a portion of their staff into the office, and one must consider the potential disdain in-person employees may have for their pajama-laden coworkers. The corollary to this? Micromanaging the attire of your remote employees may end up with them feeling constricted and might even run afoul of discrimination laws or National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) rights.

Addressing the Dress Code Question

As discussed in a recent article on the Society for Human Resources Management, companies need to start looking at this issue and understand the basics behind and communication of such change.

“Deciding whether to enforce a dress code with a remote workforce is actually a great opportunity to pause and think about why you have a dress code in normal times,” said Jessi Thaller-Moran, an attorney with Brooks Pierce in Raleigh, N.C. Is the dress code geared toward professionalism? Safety? Positive customer opinions?

“Getting to the root of that reasoning and figuring out which of those motivating factors remain a concern in remote workspaces can help employers figure out whether—and to what extent—to modify a remote-work dress code,” she said.

Knowing this, the SHRM article adds that you’re going to have to address this as you move to bring some staff back. This leaves a dilemma: shift your traditional workers toward a relaxed dress code or enforce a consistent code for remote workers focused on guidelines that maintain professionalism and limit the risk of workplace harassment.

Share Your Thoughts in the Controllers Council Community!

With many controllers sharing or taking on the responsibility for HR and operations in recent years, you may not know the laws, rules, or regulations as well as those presented by the IRS, SEC, or FASB. We launched the Controllers Council as a networking place for controllers looking to make the most of their business and we’d love to hear how you and/or your HR team is looking to approach this. Join us now to join the discussion!