Throwing tradition out the window has been popular in business culture for a while now. Companies are ditching the old school offices where your parents used to work and replacing them with non-traditional workplace environments. The cubicles are being ripped out of the floor and replaced with ping pong tables, and the water cooler shares space with freshly-tapped kegs. Google even went so far as to institute nap pods.

This attitude also extends to clothing. The new startup dress code is "whatever you want", and major companies like Google and HP have also decided to scrap formal dress codes entirely.

I've always been a big supporter of rethinking things, and the "because we've always done it that way" attitude has always gotten stuck in my craw. I even ditched the traditional office meeting and the waste of dollars and hours that come with it.

Having said that, I think we're throwing out the baby with the bathwater in completely eliminating every tradition that's ever existed. Some traditions exist for good reasons, and bring a slew of benefits.

One of these traditions is the classic office dress code. Traditional, formal styles of dress in the office can really affect your team in a good way, for a lot of reasons. Here are a few of them.

Increase creativity

This probably seems counterintuitive. After all, how can forcing everybody to conform to a single, standard mode of dress make them more creative?

A new study, called "The Cognitive Consequences of Formal Clothing," has shown that students who dressed up generated greater abstract thinking on tests than those who didn't. Some students showed up in sweatpants while others dressed like they were interviewing for a position at Goldman Sachs.

Overall, the dressed-up crew thought more broadly and holistically, while the people wearing the "I woke up like this" uniform thought narrowly and were concerned only about the minute details.

The way you dress has been proven to affect your mindset. So leave that Iron Maiden t-shirt at home.

Feel better

Do you ever saunter out of your front door feeling like an unstoppable force of nature? We all have those days every so often, where we feel like there's nothing the office can throw at you that you can't handle. If this has ever happened to you, it probably wasn't on a day when you were wearing yoga pants or a coffee-stained t-shirt.

"The Cognitive Consequences of Formal Clothing" study found that dressing well improves your mood and makes you feel and act "more powerful" in the office. Your team will see benefit from it too--the increased positive mood and clearer thinking of well-dressed people resulted in positive responses to criticism.

Pay attention

If you wear your weekend clothes at work, will you feel--and act -- like it's the weekend? The short answer is "yes," because associations with your clothing extend to your mood.

One study found that people were more attentive when wearing a laboratory coat, but became far less attentive when they were told, "Oh, that coat's just for painting." Dr. Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and fashion psychologist, explained why this is.

"When we put on an item of clothing, it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment," she said.

Decision fatigue

Mark Zuckerberg doesn't wear his ubiquitous grey shirt because he's lazy, or because he just rolled out of bed. He does it to avoid what psychologists call "decision fatigue," and President Obama does the same thing, although he'll do it with a blue or grey suit.

The number of choices you make during the day can compromise your decision-making power, and this extends to choosing your clothes. As the president put it, "I'm trying to pare down decisions. I don't want to make decisions about what I'm eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make."

Your team can focus on the big stuff if they put on a similar work outfit every day. Having no dress code, on the other hand, can lead to an unnecessary process of deciding what's right for the office, or what shirt will fit in with the rest of the team.

 

 

Published on: Oct 16, 2015