will office dress codes relax permanently after Covid? — Ask a Manager

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

Could you talk about how the change to work-from-home has changed dress code (formal or informal) in the short-term, and if you think that some of that will continue on after offices reopen?

For example, I notice that even when people are on Zoom calls (so they know they are being seen!), they are often dressed more casually than they would be at the office. Of course, there are also all the jokes about people being in shorts or sweatpants since those are mostly out of sight on Zoom. Additionally, I think when people do occasionally go into the office, the offices are barely occupied so they also may dress less formally than they otherwise would.

Do you think this will stick around long-term, either because managers may observe that the dress expectations (presumably) don’t affect people’s productivity, and/or because employees don’t want to dress formally after getting a taste of more freedom?

It’ll vary from office to office and I can’t say with any more certainty than anyone else, but my prediction is that we’ll see some relaxing of dress codes — but still staying somewhere within the business casual spectrum, not going full sweatpants-and-flip-flops. And some offices will go right back to where they were before the pandemic. (Others might do a hybrid model, where they’re more lax some of the time but you’re expected to dress up for client meetings.)

Readers, what’s your take?  Would staying very casual work in your office or industry? Realistically, is it likely to happen, which is a separate question? And people who have been on-site all along, have you observed any relaxing of dress codes this past year?

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