Quite the dilemma, isn't it?
You're an HR professional working at the head office and have noticed that some of the remote contractors keep dialling into team update calls in what looks like their pyjamas (it's surely not...). What do you do?
We've discussed numerous times on this blog that employee uniform/workwear can motivate staff, increase productivity and improve overall happiness pretty drastically. But that's largely focused on in-house staff who travel to work for a set amount of timetabled hours each day.
How exactly should this work for those that either work from home or work remotely from a fixed location?
In short - employees should only be required to follow your workwear policy when interacting with clients or colleagues. Here's why:
Workwear creates a sense of commonality
If all staff adhere to the same workwear policies then as soon as you jump on a video call, there is going to be an instant connection and a clear message that everyone in the room (and on screen) are on the same page, working for the same company with the same goals. Much as the policy encourages teams that work side by side to work together and be more productive, the same goes for those dialling in.
Without this, your team runs the risk of creating a visual gap between those in the office and those at home (in their hoodies). This will, of course, depend on your dress code and culture. But keeping these consistent is a great place to start.
Interactions with clients need to be consistent
Picture this - your team have international clients and so much of the account management is done via weekly video calls. Your team works out of a city centre office and all dress in a smart casual manner.
Your client has 'bought into' this image or professionalism and has visited your office before they signed with you. Your office and its staff are part of the product/service they are paying for and so they are expecting to be met with this at every interaction.
If a remote technician joins a call and this perception is disrupted, the impression of the business and your relationship with the client could potentially be at risk - especially in the early stages.
Having remote teams follow workwear guidelines when required (calls, site meetings etc) means that in-house teams can set up calls and ask for assistance without concern of what is going to present itself on the other end of the conference screen.
But, it isn't that simple
There is, however, a pretty big caveat here. One of the biggest reasons people choose to work remotely is for personal flexibility. They may have worn suits to work for years and really grown tired of this. Consulting your teams on both sides of the video conference is essential here.
Forcing someone to put a shirt on whilst they work from their kitchen could stifle their productivity. So see what works best for your organisation and check in with all parties regularly to ensure your policy is still working with the best interests of your employees in mind.
While remote workers report feeling more productive, happier and more valued than their desk-bound counterparts, can you effectively deploy any relevant policies to teams dotted around the country? Or does the whole concept of such a policy not make sense anymore?
Why managing remote employees Is A growing HR issue While you may be aware that more of us have the opportunity to work the odd day from home on a laptop, it may be surprising to understand the extent at which people are working out of the office, full-time.
A 2016 TUC report stated that the number of people in the UK working remotely had risen by almost 241,000 in the past ten years. And a study by the Office For National Statistics (ONS) found that half of the UK workforce is set to work remotely by 2020.
It's apparent that the trend is only going one way, and that any issues you're looking to solve now should be considered a worthwhile project to future-proof your employment policies.
So, where does that leave you?
Obviously, deciding whether to go ahead with a workwear policy of any kind for remote workers is going to need to be incredibly specific to your organisation and its culture.
The benefits of workwear in a fixed office location are tried and tested, but remote workers have their own set of personal motivations. So uniform or workwear policies may not be suitable 'out of the box'.
Unfortunately, the growing trend in remote working means you cannot avoid addressing this issue. It makes sense to start thinking about a flexible, fair but appropriate policy you can work on and launch at the start of next year.
Take special care to consider the personalities of those that choose to work from home. As well as their work commitments and both internal and external teams opinions on the matter before you draw up any guidelines.
It might even be worth considering a uniform policy as a second step. Luckily for you, we've just launched a free uniform policy pack that is available for download below: