The look of promotion

A new study suggests that HR is more inclined to dish out promotions based on appearances.

Climbing the corporate ladder requires the right outfit, new research from US staffing firm OfficeTeam suggests.

According to the survey, a majority of professionals (86%) and managers (80%) interviewed said clothing choices affect someone's chances of being promoted.  

The study also found that workers put thought into their fashion decisions: They spend an average of 11 minutes a day selecting an outfit for the office.

"Dressing professionally establishes credibility and helps others envision you in a role with greater responsibility," said Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam.

"While many organisations have relaxed their dress codes, especially for warmer months, employees shouldn't assume casual attire or the latest fashion trends are OK for the office. It's always a good idea to follow company policies and observe what colleagues in more senior positions typically wear."

In Singapore, one organisation that has relaxed its dress code policy recently is auditing house PwC. The local entity introduced a daily flexible dress code as part of a broader initiative to promote a flexible working culture and empower its people.

Even then, the company still advises employees to dress responsibly and exercise good judgement, which will empower staff to make the right decisions on their appropriate outfit for the day.

Vexing over outfits 

Men take longer picking work clothes than women (12 minutes and 9 minutes a day on average, respectively), according to the survey. Employees ages 18 to 34 spend the most time deciding what to wear (13 minutes), compared to those ages 35 to 54 (10 minutes), and those aged 55 and older (7 minutes).

One thing that may make choosing an outfit faster is keeping a separate work wardrobe, like 67% of the professionals surveyed said they do.

What to wear, then? 

What clothing is office-appropriate? According to HR managers, jeans, tennis shoes and leggings top the list of items that are more acceptable to wear to work now than five years ago. In the same timeframe, employers have become less tolerant of tank tops, tops that expose one or both shoulders (aka cold shoulder tops) and shorts. 

Addressing employee dressing 

What happens when professionals don't dress to impress? Nearly half of senior managers have talked to an employee about their inappropriate attire, and nearly one-third (32%) have sent staff home based on what they were wearing. Half of executives who spoke with an employee or told someone to leave and change clothes were comfortable doing so. Over one-third felt awkward stepping in, and the other 15% didn't want to have the conversation at all.

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