Summer workplace attire: Study Reveals that Employees Reveal More in the Office During the Summer

Rachel Marcus, Market Research Intern

As summer approaches, most people find themselves getting restless in the office.  The weather is beautiful, school is out, beaches are crowded, yet work must go on.  Glancing out of the office window into the warm sunshine leaves people wondering why they are sitting at a desk, when they should be lounging by the pool enjoying the perfect summer day.  Distractions brought about by the change in season permeate the minds of those stuck at the office all summer.  Almost half (45%) of over 600 respondents in the U.S. and Canada say that they are more distracted during the summertime.  Our survey suggests that these distractions in the office could be partly due to summer workplace attire.  As temperatures rise, workers break out their summer wardrobes, which tend to lean towards the “casual” in “business casual attire.”

While virtually everyone knows body odor and sweat (90%), see through clothing (87%), and buttock cleavage (87%) are inappropriate for the office, an interesting finding is the difference between genders when judging attire distractions.  It is easier for women to slip up when slipping into work clothes in the summer months, yet it is the women who judge the most harshly on distractions for all attires on both men and women, except one.  Only women’s sleeveless tops received a higher distraction rating from men (29%) than women (19%).   This is not the first fashion faux pas to come to mind which men find more distracting than women, is it?  In fact, 70% of women expect to see sleeveless tops or dresses during the summer and a similar 67% of women find this look acceptable, naming it the second most acceptable look behind bright colors and accessories.

Here are several garments with the biggest difference between percentage points for females and males in distraction ratings:

Women’s Clothing

Men’s Clothing

Female Response*

Male Response*

Point Difference

 

Female Response*

Male Response*

Point Difference

Bathing Suit under Attire

80%

57%

23

Tank Tops

63%

37%

26

Flip Flops

45%

26%

19

Flip Flops

55%

31%

24

Shorts

58%

39%

19

Shorts

52%

31%

21

Sleeveless

19%

29%

(-)10

Caps

42%

24%

18

* = Response: Very Distracting or Somewhat Distracting

Captivate Office Pulse July 2012

Another discrepancy between perception of distractions lies within job function, between the Senior Manager Plus group and the Administrative/Clerical group.  In virtually every category the Senior Manager plus group finds summer styles to be much more distracting than their administrative officemates.  Cleavage (87%), too much leg or bare legs (78%), and short skirts (76%) are the most distracting categories for the Senior Manager plus group.  The largest gap between two groups is 13 percentage points for short skirts, but six categories have at least a 10 percentage point difference.  Generally people in higher level positions are older and more formal, so to find such a gap between the distraction ratings of the two groups is not surprising, since every style mentioned was also found to be more distracting for older adults.

Senior Manager Plus*

Administrative/ Clerical*

Percent Difference

Cleavage

87%

77%

10

Bare/Too Much Leg

78%

68%

10

Short Skirts

76%

63%

13

Body Piercing

73%

61%

12

Tattoo

61%

50%

11

Tank Top

51%

40%

11

* = Response: Very Distracting or Somewhat Distracting

Captivate Office Pulse July 2012

Be mindful when getting dressed for work in the summer and keep in mind that you are going to your office, not to a beach or a picnic.  No matter what your company policies are, certain looks are simply inappropriate for an office setting and prove to be very distracting to others.  When senior management, who makes decisions about your future at the company, finds your outfit unprofessional, you aren’t dressing for success.  Your boss isn’t going to choose you to represent the company in a client meeting wearing improper clothing, or may pass you over for an assignment, regardless of your credentials.  As long as you look in the mirror on your way to work and see the words “smart,” “professional,” and “modest,” you will never wonder if you were denied a promotion because of inappropriate workplace attire.

Click here for the full report.