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 ance. The shift toward a more “As we have instituted our new hybrid workplace employees while enabling
casual dress code reflects,
in one sense, a desire by employees to embrace com- fort and individuality — and, over the past couple of years, a recognition by employers that comfortable employees are happier and, in many cases, just as productive as before, if not moreso.
Sue Cicco, head of Human Resources & Employee Expe-
rience at MassMutual in Springfield, told BusinessWest that the firm has continually evolved its culture to reflect the changing world, prioritizing diver-
     SUE CICCO
approach, which balances in-person collaboration with personal flexibility to best meet the needs of our employees and customers, we’ve seen this level of comfort continue, and I believe it’s here to stay.”
them to be comfortable and express themselves.”
Those we spoke with, however, kept coming back to the importance of dress- ing for one’s audience and setting. For example, Alba- no said, a litigator would never appear in court in anything but formal attire. “The dress code is normal- ly what you expect to see judge. You don’t show up
sity, equity, and inclusion; offering a flexible workplace; and, yes, moving away from exhaustive dress codes.
“In 2015, we instituted a two-word dress code: ‘dress appropriately,’” she
explained. “This simplified guidance was rolled out as the company sought to reflect the more innovative and open workplace that was building, and was aimed at trusting and empowering
in front of a
in jeans and sneakers in a court of law; that never changes.”
Tanzi Cannon-Eckerle, chief legal and administrative officer at the Royal Law Firm in Springfield, agreed.
“In the courtroom, the attire has not changed since we stopped wearing the wigs,” she said, adding that law schools across the country instill in students the importance of formal attire. “Court- room decorum won’t change, nor, in my opinion, should it change.”
In the office, however, she has seen some movement toward more casual dress. “But what might be considered lax for one person might be differ-
ent for someone else. When meeting clients, you’re still wearing blazer and slacks or a cardigan and slacks. Or you have on a suit. In that setting, I believe you’re supposed to dress toward a more professional level.”
Before returning to Royal, Cannon- Eckerle worked as director of Human Resources for Auxiliary Enterprises at UMass Amherst, a tenure that spanned much of the pandemic.
“They decided to bridge the gap between frontline workers and C-suite folks and make business casual man- datory,” she recalled. “I was still wear- ing suits every day; they actually pulled me aside and said, ‘you need to relax a little bit and try for a more approach- able persona in the workplace.’”
She recognizes that a college cam- pus during a pandemic is a different situation than a law firm, but stressed that all professional settings should strive for certain minimum standards.
“At the end of the day, there’s a baseline: you’ve got to be clean, your clothes can’t be wrinkled, and it has to make sense for the room,” she told BusinessWest. “I love to dress up; if I could, I’d wear a wedding dress once a week. But I’m pretty sure I’d be rep- rimanded by the judge. So, you don’t dress to stand out, but to fit in and make people at ease with you. You don’t want people looking at your clothes instead of you, ogling what you’re wearing and not listening to what you’re saying.”
English said it’s important to know one’s audience in choosing what to wear.
“People can be comfortable and productive, so does it really matter how somebody looks if they’re getting the job done even better than they did before? So I think employers are now more accepting,” she noted. “In the
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