Having spent the summer dressed down, workplace specialists, OfficeMax, asked workers heading back to the office this week, what’s hot and what’s not with workplace attire.
Starting with the obvious, when it comes to jandals, it seems most office workers think these should be left at the beach, with 66% saying they should not be allowed in the office. One respondent was unapologetic about her view: “Jandals are fine…if you’re a lifeguard. Otherwise, no.”
So, has the tide turned on jandals? Less than a quarter of Kiwis (22%) feel that the iconic footwear was acceptable at the office, and that showing a bit of toe was fine. Other respondents raised important considerations…
One woman remarked that when she was pregnant, jandals were the only footwear that worked for her swollen feet, while another man from Auckland said his feet are too wide for most shoes.
The survey results build on findings from OfficeMax in 2023, which found that half of Kiwis said not having to ‘dress up’ to a certain office standard made them comfortable at work. And a staggering 89% of respondents cited that being comfortable at work enhanced their productivity.
It appears; however, that people have limits, and that jandals are not the answer. Nor it seems is midriff, according to the OfficeMax survey. Asked if people should be allowed to show midriff in the office (e.g., when wearing a crop top), the answer was a firm ‘no’ for 73% of Kiwis.
One Wellingtonian respondent seemed open, but concerned: “Midriff is fine within reason, but it’s cold in Wellington, so what do you think you’re doing?” she asked. One man noted, “It’s really none of my business.”
While there appeared to be a strong consensus that midriff is a no-go in a professional setting, there were stark generational differences in opinion.
This gap (excuse the pun) was most noticeable between those early in their careers (18-24-year-olds) with over 50% giving the midriff the thumbs up compared to only 14% of those aged 55-64-years-old.
So, what does all this mean? Kiwis want to be comfortable at work, but there is definitely some tension between comfort and ‘too casual’.
Dr Geoff Plimmer, Senior Lecturer for the School of Management at Victoria University of Wellington says:
“It depends on workplace norms and cultures, but managing role boundaries is important. When people wear jandals, midriff, or similar beach attire at work they possibly aren’t managing boundaries well. When we go to work you want to be taken seriously and show you can perform your role. Wearing items that mix up the different identities we have and the roles we play, can cause tension,” he says.
“This means not bringing work problems, or identities home. For instance, not speaking in work jargon to your family. And equally not bringing things from home – or the beach – into your working life. You can be authentic but also be appropriate and recognise where you are and who you are with.”
The good news is that 92% of office workers say that their current dress code allows them to dress in a way that represents their personality or personal style. So long as that doesn’t include jandals or midriff – most of their colleagues should be okay.