Workwear: More than just a uniform
If some members of staff have to fulfil physical or dirty tasks, or be in regular contact with clients, companies may consider providing them with uniforms or specific work wear.
There are obviously pros and cons in taking the plunge - and selling the idea to staff is not always easy; there will always be some reluctance to change (whatever the nature of it) and the only way is to communicate and involve employees in some of the decisions or choices.
Choosing the right workwear may provide the company and their employees with a range of benefits:
- Health and safety: Workwear such as steel cap shoes or hard-wearing visibility jackets can ensure that employees are protected and visible, enabling them to concentrate on their tasks; in many cases it is merely a matter of compliance.
- Comfort: Comfortable, hard-wearing work clothes help employees feel safer and more at ease and will increase productivity;
- Promotion: Branded workwear helps identify staff and advertise the company. This branding also enables clients and visitors to memorize both logo and company’s name. Branded clothing is one of the easiest ways to enhance company’s services for the public.
- Sense of belonging: Having team members wear the same uniform helps create a sense of belonging and develop team spirit and solidarity. The branded logo helps create a wider sense of corporate belonging. This is good for staff morale, productivity and motivation.
- Legal protection: If an employer provides their staff with the adequate protective clothing and equipment, the chance of being held responsible for an injury is greatly reduced.
- Identification: A corporate dress code helps identify people’s roles and clarify functions, making it far easier for visitors and clients to know who to talk to whilst making staff look more professional.
However there are some difficulties to overcome before companies are able to put their workwear policy in place:
- Communication: Get employees’ wholehearted adherence to the principle: some may feel restricted in their choice of clothing or find it an infringement of their individual freedom; the project will only succeed if you communicate the reasons why the changes have been decided and insist on the benefits it will bring staff:
- Compliance with health and safety rules
- Cheaper alternative for staff (no need for personal work clothes)
- Better thermal protection and better comfort
- Consultation: consult staff on the most adequate type of clothing (for instance specific pockets or sleeves to help with the job or gender-specific details); employees are indeed the ones who know best what they are exposed to on a daily basis and what their needs are (hazards, temperature, etc).
- Budget: Adopting or changing workwear will increase the company’s overheads; it is a long-term investment with no room for “cheap”. Uniforms and pieces of equipment need to last long and convey how much the business cares for their employees.
- Find the right workwear: Though fashion has an appeal, it will not be the main criteria on which to select employees’ uniforms: protection, comfort, resistance and insulation will take precedence. However aesthetics are not to be neglected, not only to gain employees’ assent but also to convey a modern, attractive image of the company.
Once equipment and material have been agreed upon, there needs to be some standards set depending on the company’s industry sector.
For instance, whilst employees wearing their uniform outside the premises or on public transport contribute to the company’s promotion, this will not be appropriate for staff working in sectors such as health and care or catering as a matter of hygiene. In this case, keeping the workwear outside the work premises would carry the wrong message. Therefore the company will have to provide in-house or subcontract laundry services.
All in all, what may appear like a simple business decision to take is actually a more complex project, involving practical elements such as legal, health & safety and technical aspects as well as more subjective angles such as motivational features, aesthetics and promotion.
Once the decision to adopt uniforms is taken, it may be advisable to let an external source manage the project - not only to benefit from experts’ skills and market knowledge but also to lighten up the emotional weight linked to this corporate choice.