Is the ‘Casual Friday’ Look the Norm at Your Firm?

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Allegra Nagler
Columnist
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Don’t be surprised if your accountant shows up to work in khakis and a polo shirt – or in jeans and a T-shirt. Even traditionally buttoned-up accounting and finance professionals are trading in their suits for more casual workplace attire, according to a new survey by recruitment firm Robert Half Finance & Accounting.

“Workplaces are evolving and so are office attire trends,” Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half, said in a written statement. “Employees often prefer more relaxed attire, and having a casual dress code can be an enticement when recruiting finance and accounting professionals.”

According to the survey, 74 percent of finance executives said their accounting and finance departments have a “somewhat” or “very” casual dress code. Somewhat casual includes khakis and polo shirt or sweater; very casual includes jeans and T-shirt.

Only 4 percent said they have a “formal” dress code, in which professionals must come to work in a suit and tie or dress, while 21 percent consider their dress code “somewhat formal” (dress slacks or skirt with button-down shirt).

Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of respondents said business attire guidelines have loosened over the past five years, compared to 16 percent who reported a more formal dress environment.

“For employees, if you’re not sure what’s appropriate to wear for a particular situation, talk to your manager,” McDonald advised. “For job seekers preparing for interviews, tap your network or check out the employers’ social media activity for insights on the company’s culture. If you’re still uncertain of what to wear, err on the formal side.”

With that in mind, Robert Half provides the following five tips for dressing appropriately in today’s business environment.

1. Look to the next rung. What does your boss – and your boss’s boss – wear? Take a cue from upper management’s style and formality. Set yourself up for success by dressing for the job you want.

2. Keep it tidy. Even if you can wear jeans and T-shirts to work, ensure they’re clean and wrinkle-free.

3. Don’t forget the details. A dress code encompasses an employee’s total appearance. Pay as much attention to your accessories and grooming as you do to your clothing.

4. Play it safe when meeting with hiring managers. Don’t risk making a poor first impression with clothes that are too casual. Women should wear a blazer or business-appropriate dress and closed-toe shoes with a low heel. Men fare best in a suit or jacket and tie.

5. Dress for your day. Some firms now give employees the flexibility to choose attire based on their responsibilities (e.g., visiting clients versus doing desk work). If you’re unclear of your firm’s guidelines, consult the employee handbook or human resources department. Consider keeping a jacket in your office should your day unexpectedly change.

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