Blue sky day: hewlett packard's casual dress policy

In the 1990s, a shift towards casual business attire began to revolutionize the American office environment. This change was led by companies in California's Silicon Valley, particularly in the high-technology sector, where young entrepreneurs rejected traditional business suits in favor of more comfortable clothing such as denim jeans and cotton T-shirts. One of the companies at the forefront of this movement was Hewlett Packard, which embraced a casual dress policy known as blue sky day.

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The Rise of Casual Business Attire

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the 1990s saw a significant increase in the adoption of casual dress policies. In 1992, only 24 percent of U.S. companies had such policies in place, but by 1999, this number had risen to 95 percent. Levi Strauss, a popular casual clothing manufacturer, reported that in 1999, 75 percent of American workers dressed casually every day, compared to just 7 percent in 199

The trend towards casual business attire initially started in Silicon Valley, where young computer and internet entrepreneurs rejected traditional business attire in favor of more comfortable clothing. This trend gradually spread throughout the country, eventually being adopted by even the most conservative and traditional firms. Many companies found that allowing casual dress was necessary to attract and retain talented employees in a competitive job market.

However, as the fast-growing economy of the 1990s cooled down in 2001, the trend towards casual business attire began to change. The state of the economy played a significant role in this shift, with companies wanting to project a more serious and professional image to gain the trust and confidence of clients and investors. As a result, many companies started reinstating more formal dress codes.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Casual Dress Policies

There are several advantages to implementing a casual dress policy in the workplace. Many employees view it as a perk that creates a less hierarchical work environment, focusing on their contributions rather than their appearance. Casual dress can also improve morale, enhance productivity, and help companies fit in with the corporate climate of their customers.

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However, there can be challenges in implementing and enforcing casual dress policies. Vague dress code descriptions, such as using terms like appropriate or businesslike, can lead to confusion among employees and make it difficult for them to interpret the right way to dress for work. Companies may also face issues with employees taking advantage of the situation by wearing sloppy or inappropriate attire.

To address these challenges, companies have had to issue specific guidelines and be more explicit in their dress code policies. Banned items often include halter-tops, stretch pants, jeans, shorts, sandals, and shirts without collars. Clear communication of dress code policies through bulletin boards, company publications, websites, and employee manuals can help ensure that employees understand the expectations.

Another potential disadvantage of casual dress policies is that some employees may not take their work as seriously when they are dressed casually. Managers have reported increases in employee absenteeism, tardiness, and inappropriate behavior when casual dress policies are introduced. Some individuals also prefer traditional business attire as they believe it provides an equalizing factor and helps overcome prejudices based on age or hierarchy.

The Return to Formal Business Attire

While casual dress policies have become the norm in many industries, there are still sectors that maintain a more formal dress code. The banking and legal fields, for example, never fully embraced casual business attire and have been leading a trend back towards more formal dress.

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Some individuals resist the movement towards casual office attire due to concerns about losing credibility and respect. Both employers and employees worry that dressing casually may impact their professional image and hinder their chances of career advancement. Additionally, individuals involved in client relationships may fear that a client's perception of their professionalism may be influenced by their casual attire.

It is important for individuals to understand that casual attire in the workplace should still exude power, credibility, and authority. Dressing too sloppily can erode self-confidence and make one appear unprofessional in the eyes of clients and colleagues. The key is finding the right balance between formal and comfortable attire that aligns with the company's culture and industry expectations.

The trend towards casual business attire, exemplified by Hewlett Packard's blue sky day policy, has significantly changed the American office environment. While there are advantages to implementing casual dress policies, there are also challenges in defining and enforcing appropriate attire. The return to formal business attire in some industries highlights the ongoing debate surrounding the impact of dress code policies on professionalism and credibility. Ultimately, finding the right dress code balance is essential in creating a productive and comfortable work environment.

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