Guest Blog: HMA Public Relations

Rosalind Brazel / November 1, 2012

by Scott Hanson

 This week’s Phoenix Business Journal poll asks:  “Has workplace attire become too casual?”

The term “casual” certainly means different things to different people, particularly from a geographic standpoint.

In the southwestern United States, workplace attire tends to be much, much more casual than anywhere else in the world.  At “business casual” meetings and events at our Public Relations Global Network meetings, I am always – by far – the most casually – and comfortably dressed.

A few years ago, a Phoenix mayor even went so far as to declare during a news conference that neck-ties should not be worn during the summer months.  Our “100-Degree Rule” also eliminates suit coats altogether when the mercury rises that high.

With summer temperatures well above 100 degrees here, HMA Public Relations goes even further.  Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, we have “Shorts Fridays,” when staff members can wear shorts to work if they choose, provided they do not have client meetings.

Even during the winter months in the Desert Southwest, we have casual Fridays, which allow for jeans – as long as they’re presentable.  “Business casual” in Arizona can mean jeans and a golf shirt or a short-sleeve button-down.

While that’s not the case everywhere, it’s trending that way.

  • We start in one of the world’s fashion capitols, Milan, Italy.  Alessandra Malvermi, managing partner of Sound Public Relations, stated, “By and large, too formal clothing is not required in Italian offices. The perfect look is the casual chic. The watchword is ‘in good taste.’ The best way to show up for work is being neat and at ease, getting dressed graciously and never going over the top.”
  • Aaron Blank, president of The Fearey Group in Seattle, said, “We are business attire Monday through Thursday and business casual (ONLY if you do not have a client meeting) on Fridays. We were starting to become too casual on Fridays so we needed to remind staff about our policy.”
  • Mark Paterson, FPRIA, principal of Currie Communications in Melbourne, Australia, provided this perspective: “The standard of dress in the workplace has ‘casualized,’ in direct proportion with the increased flexibility of workplace hours, the greater mobility of the workforce and the globalization of business hours. Nowadays, it’s not unusual to join an international teleconference call across several time zones wearing pajamas. Too casual? Well, communications technology means that not every appointment judges us by what we wear.”
  • Ramonna Robinson, vice president and managing partner of Denver’s GroundFloor Media, had this to say: “I personally believe that professionals dress up or down for the occasion, and that people know the appropriate attire for each situation so I haven’t encountered anyone that is ‘too casual.’”
  • Philadelphia’s Anne Buchanan, president of Buchanan Public Relations, echoed.  “We rely on employees’ good judgment when it comes to dress. On days when we are not meeting with clients, nice jeans are perfectly fine. I cannot recall having had to speak to an employee about inappropriate dress. Casual attire is one of the benefits of working here. As long as employees exercise good judgment, we allow a lot of latitude. When client contact is part of the day, we dress to demonstrate respect and professionalism.”
  • Uwe Schmidt, partner with IC AG Public Relations of Hamburg, Germany, commented, “Our workplace attire is very casual but we ‘disguise’ of course when expecting clients. By the way, ties become more-and-more less important. All this reflects the new German relaxed manner.”
  • John Echeveste, a partner with VPE Public Relations which specializes in reaching the U.S. Hispanic market, noted,  “I’m glad the days of suffocating neckties are over, that’s for sure!  I think we’re still defining an ‘office casual’ style that is somewhere between more than ‘street casual’ but short of suits and dresses.  In the meantime, it’s a case-by-case basis, but no flip flops, tank tops, or loud tee-shirts, please.”
  • In Poland, Mariusz Pleban president of Multi Communications, said, “People tend to attune. With time more and more influencers wear more casual clothes. With time they want to feel more and more comfortably. With time more people feel the society push to wear exactly the same (type) clothes others, such as celebrities, wear. Being different hurts and 95 percent of people are followers who do not want to suffer. Casual will become normal. Watch out – with time asking the question ‘has attire in the workplace become too casual?’ may be a sign of being dinosaur. Would you wear the 1800s suit when going to the bank now..?”
  • Sandy Lish, principal and founder of The Castle Group in Boston joked, “Has workplace attire become too casual? I guess that depends on whether one considers ipods a business-appropriate accessory.”
  • Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, recently told an audience at the Inc. 500|5000 Conference in Phoenix, “I wear jeans because it’s comfortable and I want others to feel comfortable.”

Is the neck-tie on the endangered list?