13 November 2014

Should your staff wear a uniform?

Staff uniforms can make a huge impact on how your business is perceived and can add to the brand. But are they necessary for your business?

How your employees dress can make a huge impact on how your business is perceived, but do you need to provide your staff with a uniform? For some industries, a uniform may be a no-brainer, particularly if your workers are in regular contact with your customers.

While some uniforms are quite formal, they can also be more casual too. For example, some companies simply provide their staff with branded t-shirts. This still offers many of the benefits below, without costing your business too much money.

Advantages of staff uniforms

  • Uniforms are a subtle form of marketing. They promote your brand while your employees are at work, and wherever else they go in their uniform. For example people will see the uniform when your staff are travelling to and from work or if they go out on their lunch break. This means you’re potentially extending the reach of your brand through your staff.
  • A uniform creates a professional image, ensuring that your workers have a standard appearance that fits with your brand. Using the example of airline staff or ambulance workers, the colour and style of their uniforms makes them instantly recognisable.
  • It makes it easier for customers to identify members of staff. This is particularly useful if your business is customer-facing, such as those in the retail or leisure industries.
  • If everyone wears a uniform, it puts all staff on the same footing and can help to make your team more cohesive.
  • A uniform can reduce costs for staff, because they don’t need to spend money on buying work-appropriate clothing.
  • A uniform may be necessary for safety reasons, for example your workers may need to wear specific footwear or high visibility clothing.
  • It avoids problems with staff wearing inappropriate clothing.
  • Staff may be more conscious of their actions when wearing a uniform as they are easy to identify.

Issues with staff uniforms

  • A badly thought-out uniform could actually hinder performance. If your employees don’t like the cut, colour or style of the uniform, they may feel uncomfortable or self-conscious wearing it, which will show in their behaviour. Plus if they have not previously had to wear a uniform, they may resent the introduction of one.
  • Uniforms can be expensive. While you may be able to get tax relief on these items, it’s still an additional cost, particularly if you need to provide uniforms for different seasons.
  • Even with a uniform, you may still need to offer guidance or a policy to make sure it is worn appropriately.

If you decide to opt for a staff uniform, you’ll need to decide specifics, such as whether all your employees will have to wear the uniform or only those on the front-line. How many sets of uniforms do you provide and how often do you provide them with new ones to allow for general wear?

When a dress code may be better

If your business isn’t primarily customer facing, a dress code may be more appropriate. This still allows you to set the boundaries of what’s acceptable attire while giving your staff the freedom to wear something comfortable to work in. It also doesn’t cost your business any money.

For other businesses, particularly more modern, tech or marketing companies where casual dress is more acceptable, even a dress code could be viewed as somewhat draconian. This may come down to your company culture, but either way, think through your options as to whether uniforms would help or hinder your company.