WTF is a WFH uniform?

Opinion: Dictating what your workers wear is a great way to tell them not to be their authentic selves.

by Orianna Rosa Royle
Last Updated: 13 Jul 2022

After two years of taking Zoom calls in jogging bottoms, people finally have reason to dress up again. For those (myself included) making the most of in-real-life experiences, fashion is back in fashion.

Armed with a wardrobe full of clothes that haven’t seen the light of day since Britain went into lockdown, the office has become my catwalk. But just like my working pattern, my style has gone hybrid. 

I'm not alone in balancing impressing my peers in person with comfort when working remotely in solitude. Just a quick trawl on Google will reveal that athleisure wear is still very much the working from home uniform of choice for many. And why not, when even if you do have a meeting you can only be seen from the waist up anyway?  

Yet employers are so vexed that their workers won’t put up with a strangling tie or toe-clipping stilettos while working remotely, that they’re considering mandating dressing smartly according to research.

In a poll of 120 employers, 65% said staff should be dressing smarter when working from home and around half of employers are considering a formal dress code as a result. A shockingly high percentage of bosses want to take the choice away from employees altogether, with 70% considering providing their workers with staff branded clothing. 

Not only is treating adult employees like school children by asking them to wear a uniform patronising, it is also a great way to tell your workers not to be their authentic selves.

People are tired of putting a mask on for work - and after two years of peaking into each other’s homes, being genuine about pandemic-related fears and shedding the monotone mould created by decades of outdated office attitudes, they shouldn’t have to. 

Businesses can’t ask their employees to open up, be vulnerable and get creative while demanding they put the same company-provided black polo neck on every day. 

It’s almost as if employers forgot that their most important asset is no longer capital, it’s people. Unsurprisingly, 40% of the workers surveyed said they would seek alternative employment if asked to dress smarter. 

Ultimately the issue extends beyond angering workers who respond to emails from their sofa on a Friday in gym gear.

Businesses that dictate how people dress at home, don’t look good against the backdrop of global conversations around freedom of expression and identity. With many businesses now including pronouns in their email signatures, it seems almost archaic that others would look to police at-home attire.

And most modern workers will not only agree, they will make employment decisions around such values.

Image credit: 10'000 Hours via Getty Images