Shorts are an essential summer kit for most Kiwis, with some tradies even opting to wear them year-round. But do these partial-pants translate from the barbecue to the boardroom? Is it ok to wear shorts to the office?
A recent poll conducted by Frog Recruitment of 846 employees found workers are divided on the appropriateness of shorts in the workplace, particularly in corporate offices.
Thirty-five percent of those polled said ‘Yes, any time’ to wearing shorts at work, compared with 34 percent who responded that wearing shorts was ‘unprofessional’. A slightly lower number (31 percent) reported that shorts were acceptable only if there were no client meetings or interactions.
To ‘lengthen’ the debate, not all shorts are created equal. Exactly what type of shorts are appropriate is also up for debate. Are dressy shorts ok, but Stubbies not? Is there a preferred length?
Frog Recruitment managing director Shannon Barlow says the move to hybrid and work-from-home situations and celebrity fashion choices have driven the casualisation of work attire in recent years.
“Who doesn’t admire the bold individuality of Pharrell Williams wearing shorts to the Oscars, or Rhianna wearing sneakers with her ballgown? Wearing the cult white sneaker at work is a practical move, and there is no argument it contributes to the general casualness of people’s work wardrobe.
“A company needs to be clear on its expectations around office dress code. If it forbids shorts, this should be explicit in policy. We’re hearing more companies applying the same rules to shorts that they apply to skirts or dresses in terms of length and fit. Other common policies allow more casual dressing on days when no client-facing is happening, but some employers expect a more formal dress code for face-to-face interactions,” said Barlow.
While more than one in three workers (36 percent) said they’d be more productive in their job if they could wear shorts in the workplace, 49 percent of employees polled said there would be no change to productivity if a worker wore shorts instead of longs.
“Common sense comes into play,” says Barlow. “Daisy Dukes, rugby shorts, jandals, and other beach clothes could be a distraction for some and a health and safety hazard for others. A good rule of thumb is to consider where you are in your career, where you want to go, and who you need to influence to get there. While individuality should be encouraged at work, there is the company’s culture to respect, and some sectors – like banking and law – set common standards for their profession.”
She says employers looking through a productivity lens have a responsibility to manage a comfortable work environment, including climate control. One respondent said, “On a hot day in our ineffective office air-conditioning, I would jump at the chance to wear shorts. I know I would work better and harder.”
Barlow says there’s no denying a general shift in making sure workers can turn up to work in clothes they feel comfortable to wear.
“Ultimately, wearing shorts to work is an individual company choice. The short answer is employers should be clear about their expectations to ensure people are not surprised or distracted by their colleague’s knees when there is work to get on with.”