Battling the Legacy of the Suit in 2015
As an owner of commercial office buildings, we spend a lot of time focused on the needs of our tenants. We see first hand that retaining and attracting talented employees is a real challenge for businesses. In 2015, the “perks” for employees are very different from that of the ’80s and ’90s. Today, it is much more an issue of whether an employee can have a dog by their side, a ping pong table and keg in the office, digital free zones on the property, or the ability to wear sandals and jeans to work. Businesses are no longer concerned about who gets a corner office, reserved parking or a club membership. In fact, we see employers much more focused on their employees experience in the property their business is located than ever before.
As a tenant in an office property, the employer’s main barrier in providing an environment that is the most desirable to their employees is the owner or landlord. Most institutional landlords are known for being stiff and inflexible about issues that are ‘untraditional’ in a real estate property but that is not the case at Rising. We always strive to meet our tenants requests. We take very seriously the concept of curating and controlling our tenant’s experience. That is why all of our properties are dog friendly and why we focus on providing quality amenity experiences in a wi-fi enabled project.
However, we do not and cannot control the dress code of tenants, nor, quite frankly, do we want to control it. At our signature project, PacMutual, we have a variety of tenants that range from fashion tenants like Nasty Gal to banks like American Business Bank. To say these companies are on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to how their employees dress doesn’t do the distance of that spectrum justice.
A typical day in PacMutual will have a mix of young fashion designers wearing the latest and most hip fashion trends, or a video game creator in casual jeans and a t-shirt. We have bankers in suits and ties eating at one of our restaurants next to a young mother in workout clothes with her baby and stroller. For us, the picture has become very clear — there really isn’t a dress code in the ‘business environment’ any more. The days of office buildings filled with dark suits and power ties, black skirts and blazers are quickly, if not already, at an end. In our experience, a formal business dress code is as outdated as a fax machine.
As a company, Rising is very focused on our employee experience. Casual Fridays? Never made sense to our team. Does that mean on Friday you don’t work as hard or you work harder because you are more comfortable? We want our employees to be comfortable, every day of the week. As we have discussed it at the senior level of our company, we have come to one basic conclusion – how one dresses in the work environment should reflect an appropriate respect for others, but it has to be comfortable.
As a Gen Xer, I grew up in the business being told the dark suit, power tie and the “bling bling” (pocket square) is what the “hitters” always wore. Now that we have our own company, our own team, and our own space, my perspective has completely shifted. When the CEO of the most valuable company in the world, Tim Cook of Apple, presents to investors and a global audience in jeans and a shirt untucked, I think it’s silly to say “well, they are just a tech company”. A major global company with thousands of employees who are unbelievably productive – that’s just a great, and big company, not just a tech company.
Our team has the mentality that if we’re going to be in clothes at the work place for 8 or 10 hours in a day, we want our people comfortable and focused on the tasks at hand. We don’t want them fiddling with a tie or being too hot in a suit or adjusting an uncomfortable dress. You are more likely going to see the latest fashion jeans, sneakers, or sandals than you will a Brooks Brothers suit or a pencil skirt and heels when you walk into our office.
Since I have an athletic background, my “go to” clothing tends be athletic related. I love the newest fabric technology of many clothing lines. I love the clothing line from Scottevest because I love the athletic material combined with pockets, lots of pockets. But I also love Kuhl, my “go to” pants when I have to go in the “slacks” look. I also love Mizzen+Main, which is taking athletic material to the dress shirt. After shattering my ankle last November, I have pretty much given up on the hard sole shoes and have embraced the sneaker look for most days.
All in all – we’ve discovered that the process by which companies select office space has changed dramatically. The focus is how a company empowers its people and how it can motivate and attract the best employees possible. We find that companies of all types have shunned the formal dress code – law firms, accounting firms, engineering firms and real estate brokerage firms have all dropped the suit.
It just makes sense. In a world that doesn’t need prescribed work hours or a formal office to house one’s work material, why would an employer prescribe a dress code for “work clothes”?. In our opinion, so long as our employees dress with respect for others and are comfortable, they will be more productive and happier.
As far as I am concerned, feel free to show up in your workout clothes (pre-workout, please) or your favorite jeans, you’ll fit right in at Rising. The Rising team would appreciate your comments – what is or what should the dress code for business be in 2015?