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Guide to dress-down Fridays and casual Fridays

Casual Fridays allow employees to wear less formal clothing, such as trainers
Casual Fridays allow employees to wear less formal clothing, such as trainers
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Dress-down Fridays, otherwise known as casual Fridays, are popular policies that allow workers to wear more casual attire every Friday. Because they cost next to nothing to implement, and are generally perceived to have a positive effect on staff, they have become more widespread in recent years. There is some disagreement as to whether the negative effects of dress-down Fridays are significant, although for many companies the benefits will outweigh the risks.

What are casual Fridays?

Casual Fridays offer employees one day’s respite from company dress codes, allowing them to wear casual attire – such as jeans and trainers – in place of business wear. Staff tend to see casual Fridays in different ways; some may view it as a time-saver, meaning they don’t have to iron their shirts and trousers, while others may see it predominantly as an opportunity for personal expression.

The occasion is generally seen as a positive step by employers to reward staff for their week of hard work. Companies that don’t have formal dress code policies may allow employees to wear fancy dress instead, a concept known as ‘fancy Fridays.’

History of casual Fridays

The occasion has its roots in 1940s Hawaii, when the city of Honolulu allowed workers to wear their Aloha shirts for part of the year. This evolved, in the 1960s, into Aloha Fridays. As the price of casual wear dropped in the 1970s due to heavy outsourcing, the dominant retailers unveiled a massive marketing campaign in the 1970s to formalise the concept of a casual wear day across America.

The concept picked up considerably during the dot-com boom years of the late 1990s and into the 2000s as technology-based companies (particularly in California) became known for their relaxed, anti-corporate atmospheres.

Over time the occasion has spread to the rest of the world, and has no doubt became more prevalent due to increase in evidence that employers should attempt to proactively increase staff morale.

Benefits of casual Fridays

  • Improving morale: allowing employees room for freedom of expression can keep them happier and more willing to work hard
  • Increasing business attractiveness: if current employees are content you are more likely to attract new key talent, and the dress down benefit itself is likely to be appealing to possible recruits
  • Cost-effectiveness: most staff benefits have a financial cost to the employer but dress down Fridays do not, allowing managers to improve their standing with staff without an associated financial burden
  • Improved effectiveness: some studies indicate that employees feel more effective, and perform better, when dressed casually
  • Improved interpersonal relations: formal business wear can encourage competitiveness, whereas casual wear – and the freedom associated with it – can create more of a team environment.

Disadvantages of casual Fridays

  • Clothes may reflect poorly on firm: many companies that introduce dress-down Fridays will not specify exactly what clothes are appropriate and what aren’t. The enormous diversity of casual clothing may give rise to an awkward situation if an employee wants to wear an item that could potentially reflect poorly on the company’s reputation or values
  • Decline in work performance: although many studies register an improvement in productivity when employees are dressed more casually, other studies suggest that employees , when feeling relaxed and casual, adopt a relaxed and casual mind-set to work
  • Public reputation: client-facing businesses may be less likely to allow casual wear on Fridays in case clients and customers feel the casual wear reflects an unprofessional attitude. Some companies take the middle-ground by allowing casual wear on Fridays unless clients are in the office.