Page 4 - BusinessWest December 12, 2022
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4 DECEMBER 12, 2022 FEATURE BusinessWest
   Dressing Down
Professional Offices Are Changing into Something More Comfortable
Ken Albano says businesses need to balance what works for employees with a certain level of professionalism.
IBy Joseph Bednar But in the office, you were allowed to have professional pants on but maybe not necessarily a suit and tie, just a button-down shirt, stuff
f it wasn’t clear before, you know office-attire norms are shifting when the rules for dress-down Friday have to change.
That’s exactly what happened at MP CPAs in Springfield, one of many companies with a rule that, with a donation to a charitable cause (in this case, a $5 donation that the com-
pany matches), employees may wear jeans and other attire typically deemed too casual for the office.
“But we changed it slightly because of what ended up happening,” said Melissa English, senior tax manager. Specifically, “COVID came, and our dress-code policy went out the window.”
With jeans and other casual attire now acceptable all week, she explained, “for an incentive for people who want to contribute to charity, Fridays are now our ‘wear what you want’ day. Anything goes. There’s no dress-code policy on Fridays if you pay in.”
Flip flops on Friday? Sure, go for it.
“I started 21 years ago with the firm, and no matter what, whether you were in the office, with a client, whatever, you made sure you were professionally dressed,” English told BusinessWest. “Then, over time, it gradually did loosen up a little bit. It became a little more ... business casual. When you went to a client, you still had to dress up.
like that.”
If anything, the pandemic, and especially the summer of 2020,
only accelerated that trend, she went on. As one of the first businesses back in Monarch Place, at a time when the downtown towers seemed nearly empty, it was easy to relax the dress code.
“At that point, it was wear whatever you wanted. You could show up in your pajamas; it didn’t matter,” she joked. “It was very casual. We had no dress-code policy whatsoever; we were wearing shorts all summer.”
What happened next — and this was something BusinessWest heard multiple times for this story — was that employees liked dress- ing down. And employers listened.
“Even after COVID, to try to get back to professional dress, I don’t think it’s going to happen,” English said. “For me personally, I want to be comfortable when I’m working, and I think a lot of people feel that way. I think you’re more productive if you’re comfortable throughout the day. So I do think it was already moving toward business casual, but COVID definitely pushed it.
“I do know a lot of businesses feel the same way,” she added. “A lot of the businesses we go to now are casual to business casual. You don’t see many people wearing suits and ties anymore. I think it’s

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