How do uniforms benefit the company and its employees? Is it a must for your company?
You’ve seen them everywhere – your local Starbucks, your nearest Apple Store, on your favourite sports team, and even your mailman. They’ve been around for at least 2,000 years. So why, in this day and age where anything can go out of style in mere days, are workplace uniforms still relevant?
Believe it or not, uniforms are there for multiple reasons. They enforce safety regulations, boost brand awareness, and boost employees’ productivity and morale. In this article, we’ll find out why that is so, and how you can incorporate that into your company.
LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD
If you’re like most people, you probably have a certain outfit that you look really good in. And if you’re like most people, wearing it makes you feel more confident or focused. As it turns out, the clothes you wear don’t just make you feel better, they make you perform better as well.
A 2012 study from Northwestern University found that wearing clothes with a certain meaning attached to them affected the way they think. This phenomenon, which the researchers termed “enclothed cognition”, had quite noticeable effects. In one experiment, they found that the group who were given lab coats to wear performed better on a selective attention test than the group who were not given lab coats. However, the researchers also found in a separate experiment that the group who were given coats associated with painters did not perform as well at a sustained attention test as the group who were given coats associated with doctors. This meant that wearing the clothes alone does not have an effect, but wearing them while associating them with certain positive qualities does.
How, then, can a company apply this? As an employee it might help to look at your uniform in a more positive light and associate them with positive emotions. As an employer, it might help to design your employees’ uniforms to evoke an emotion that you want to express to your employees, and in turn, your customers. Knowledge of color theory might help in this regard – for example, purple is often associated with royalty or luxury, so it might be advisable to work that color into the uniforms of spa employees.
UNITED WE STAND
The uniform, as the word implies, promotes a sense of unity. Even the origin of the word (Latin unus “one” + forma “form”) suggests the same meaning. Uniforms in a workplace encourage collaborative effort and teamwork among employees, and that contributes to better productivity overall. In contrast, casual dress codes can cause social barriers to arise – for example, employees might find a co–worker harder to approach because of the way he or she dresses. In most companies, then – particularly in the food industry – uniforms are a great way to get your team working more cohesively.
PRESENTATION IS EVERYTHING
Branding is one of the most important aspects of any company – logos, slogans, and visuals leave the most lasting impression on the customer, after all. That is why the way we associate scarves worn over corporate attire with flight attendants and a yellow and purple colour scheme with the Los Angeles Lakers is no coincidence. Uniforms are themselves a form of marketing, and employees wearing them effectively become walking billboards. That perpetuates the brand in the customers’ minds; when customers see them, they recognize the brand; when they recognize the brand, they remember it; and when they remember the brand, they can share it with others.
Some of the largest companies in the world utilize uniforms as branding, to great effect. The blue shirts worn by Apple Store employees are simple and to the point, giving the impression that they are easily approachable. Starbucks’ green aprons work in tandem with their brand colors and their cafe designs to create a relaxing atmosphere. And your company can put this to their advantage, too, with a uniform that is easily recognizable and memorable. It doesn’t even have to be a top–to–bottom outfit either, as even a shirt with your company logo on it can give the same results.
SEPARATE WORK AND PLAY
Uniforms also create a boundary between employees’ work and personal life. Company dress codes – particularly casual ones – have a detrimental effect on workers’ productivity as they do not have a definite line between the clothes they wear to work and the clothes they wear everywhere else. At work, employees might be inclined to feel relaxed since they are wearing clothes they usually wear at home; at the same time, employees might be more stressed at home since they are wearing clothes they usually wear at work. Implementing company uniforms separates work and play, improving their productivity at work and removing stress outside of it.
THE RISE OF “STARTUP CASUAL”
A uniform may have a lot of benefits to bring into the company, but does your company really need it? Let’s say you are the owner of a small software development firm, with only an office and with no retail outlets. From the get–go, some of the benefits of company uniforms – particularly the branding – are immediately taken away. Since your employees are not always seen by customers, they won’t be able to remember the uniform as part of the brand’s image.
With the digital age comes startup companies – companies founded by young, progressive entrepreneurs, often with a few employees. The increasing number of these startups have given rise to what is called “startup casual”, a dress code with an emphasis on employee comfort and adherence to the “hip” atmosphere of the company. Startup casual is not that much different from outright casual wear, which blurs the line between work attire and everyday clothing, and it allows employees to express themselves through the way they dress. It goes against many of the principles that make company uniforms effective, and yet they provide their own benefits as well.
UNIFORM VS. DRESS CODE
So what is best for your company – uniforms or dress codes? One thing to keep in mind is that larger companies or those in the retail or restaurant industries tend to incorporate uniforms, while startups and office–based companies tend to have dress codes. Despite this, there is no definitive answer for everyone, as every entrepreneur has a unique vision for what they want their company to be. Furthermore, the benefits of uniforms do not apply to all industries and all people; some people might work better wearing clothes they are comfortable with.
If you want to start your own company (or are in the process of starting one) it is therefore very important to put that vision into detail. What kind of image do you want to project to your customers? Do you want them to see your company as trendy and fun, or stable and clinical? What kind of atmosphere do you want your employees to work in? Knowing the answers to these questions will give you the best possible answer for your company and your employees.