Dress while on video calls

Q:  Our company is continuing to work remotely through 2021, at least.  I work in a technology services company and manage a small team.  We seem to have a group of employees who think it is ok to wear t-shirts and ratty clothes on Zoom calls with clients.  They even joke about it.  As the supervisor, I feel like I have lost control.  What can I do?

A:  I think many of us have moved to less formal, more casual clothes as we are working from home.  However, that does not mean wearing clothing that you would wear while raking leaves, working out, or sleeping.  My question back to you is have you been clear about expectations around appropriate dress?  Have you or your company clearly messaged what is appropriate and what is inappropriate dress during client video calls?  Do you have guidelines on what business casual means and more importantly?

Companies vary quite a bit on what is reasonable and what is not.  Some of my clients are ok with employees working in jeans, shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops.  Other clients require true business casual which often means a collared shirt, blouse, and khakis.  Many of my clients have a definite “do not wear” list which may include very sheer or ripped clothing.  We have observed a more casual trend in business dress, particularly with remote work and video calls.

Sharing what an employer expects around dress is important.  What leaders wear within an organization sets the tone for what really is acceptable.  If your Vice President of Engineering arrives in a tank top and shorts, that is sending the message that a tank top and shorts are acceptable.  If you have a published dress code, it is a good idea to dust that off and re-send it to all employees on an annual basis.  Make sure that the published dress code reflects what actually occurs within the organization, or else this document becomes meaningless.

Though an increasingly small number, there are employers who have fairly rigid appearance guidelines, which include restrictions on piercings, tattoos, and jewelry.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.