COVID uniform trends and what the future looks like

 

The events of the past few years have changed our workplaces in a lot of ways. We’ve settled into a new normal, with adapted routines and fresh approaches to how we work. There’s a lot of talk about the shift to remote or hybrid work schedules, but another significant change has been the expectations we have for our workplace.

 

 

Not only do we place a heightened importance on working in a clean, sanitised and safe environment, but also a workplace that offers flexibility, comfort and the opportunity for self-expression. All these factors are influencing how all industries are getting dressed for work, both in the present and moving forward.

For those of us lucky enough to be able to work from home, comfort has been promoted among our priorities when considering everything from working arrangements to work attire. From home, we enjoyed the luxury of customising and optimising our office space, our schedules, and our work outfits to meet our individual needs. We could do a workout on our lunch break and add as many houseplants as we pleased to our desks. Suits, ties, constrictive dresses and heels made no sense in a home office; however, I remain a strong proponent of looking professional even if you’re working from your kitchen bench – pyjama pants, activewear and worn-out t-shirts do nothing to aid focus or establish a boundary between relaxation and work mode – but a more relaxed approach to what “professional” looks like presents fresh opportunities to express both employee individuality and brand identity.

When it comes to uniform trends moving forward, the freedom of self-expression and the prioritisation of comfort appears to be here to stay. At Total Image Group, we’ve always been advocates for involving staff members in the uniform design process, because a successful uniform should not only represent your brand, but make your employees comfortable, confident, and proud to wear it. Incorporating staff preferences and individuality in uniform design will become increasingly important in guaranteeing those outcomes. The future looks like less rigid policies, more options, and increased flexibility. Perhaps that means introducing comfortable footwear, relaxing rules on covering tattoos or piercings, or including tees, shorts and stretch fabrics in your uniform range to keep your staff comfortable and happy.

Getting your staff on board with their uniform range is even more vital than ever, for the sake of maintaining both brand image and team unity.  With video calls and virtual meetings now a frequent aspect of daily business, there are some clients and colleagues that you’ll never meet with a handshake, so your camera lens is your only opportunity to build a sense of who you are and what you represent. What brand message and culture are being perceived by clients, especially those that you meet exclusively via video? You’d expect your staff to put forward the very best image for a real-life meeting, and that energy needs to carry over into virtual meetings too. A cohesive uniform is the best way to achieve this.

It’s not only clients that should be treated to the look of a well-dressed team – the team itself needs it too! With hybrid working arrangements and permanent remote work becoming a new normal, it’s important to consider your team, brand, and company cohesiveness. Uniforms are a key piece of maintaining employee engagement, reminding them that they are a part of a team, and what that team represents. If your uniform range offers comfort, choice and comradery, their more likely to want to wear it with a smile, no matter where they are.

A more relaxed approach to dress doesn’t mean that all rules should go out the window. Like any element of brand and marketing, a uniform design and implementation needs to be well thought out and take into consideration the following:

  1. PURPOSE

Uniforms should always reflect a company’s brand and purpose. This ensures a client can identify what the company is about through what the staff are wearing. For companies that want to reflect contemporary sensibilities and an inclusive company culture, a range that is both cohesive but also allows for employee self-expression is the perfect compromise.

  1. PRACTICALITY

Depending on the client, we often find there is either too much of a focus on the look and not enough on practicality, or vice versa! There is a significant difference between weekend wear and work wear, and whilst uniforms need to be fashion forward, they also must be functional and fit for purpose.

  1. PICTURE PERFECT

Tell the whole story from top to toe. If you spend time creating a look, it needs to consider all factors. Will staff need a winter wear option? What trousers are they expected to wear? Is there a requirement for a cap or beanie? There is no point creating a fabulous shirt or polo only to have it covered up by an off-brand hot pink jumper that does not communicate the consistent story of your brand.

  1. POLICY

The devil is in the details. Ensure there is a company uniform policy outlining dress standards. This ensures that whatever your staff are choosing to wear, it will still match brand expectations for professionalism and presentation.

In a post-covid world, companies need to start implementing and managing contemporary dress codes for both in-office and working from home, to ensure unity, consistent messaging and employee satisfaction for the long-term. When building your new look, make choice and personalisation key factors, whilst keeping fashion and function front of mind. This way, you can find the perfect compromise between representing your brand and letting the individual members of your team shine.

 

Pamela Jabbour is the founder and CEO of Total Image Group, the Uniform designer and manufacturer for some of Australia’s leading brands including Ford Australia, the Sydney Cricket Ground, and Bonza. With offices in Sydney, Melbourne and China, Total Image dresses over 300,000 Australians every day in their work wardrobe.  Find out more at www.totalimagegroup.com.au