Climbing the corporate leader requires the right gear, new research from staffing firm OfficeTeam suggests. The majority of professionals (86 percent) and managers (80 percent) surveyed said clothing choices affect someone’s chances of being promoted.

The study also found that workers put thought into their fashion decisions: They spend an average of 11 minutes a day selecting an outfit for the office.

“Dressing professionally establishes credibility and helps others envision you in a role with greater responsibility,” said Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam. “While many organizations have relaxed their dress codes, especially for warmer months, employees shouldn’t assume casual attire or the latest fashion trends are OK for the office. It’s always a good idea to follow company policies and observe what colleagues in more senior positions typically wear.”

Time Well Spent?

Men take longer picking work clothes than women (12 minutes and 9 minutes a day on average, respectively), according to the survey. Employees ages 18 to 34 spend the most time deciding what to wear (13 minutes) compared to those ages 35 to 54 (10 minutes) and 55 and older (7 minutes).

One thing that may make choosing an outfit faster is keeping a separate work wardrobe, like 67 percent of the professionals surveyed said they do.

Wear This, Not That

What clothing is office-appropriate? According to HR managers, jeans, tennis shoes and leggings top the list of items that are more acceptable to wear to work now than five years ago. In the same timeframe, employers have become less tolerant of tank tops, tops that expose one or both shoulders (aka cold shoulder tops) and shorts.

Addressing Employee Dressing

What happens when professionals don’t dress to impress? Forty-four percent of senior managers have talked to an employee about their inappropriate attire, and nearly one-third (32 percent) have sent staff home based on what they were wearing. Half of executives who spoke with an employee or told someone to leave and change clothes were comfortable doing so. Thirty-five percent felt awkward stepping in, and the other 15 percent didn’t want to have the conversation at all.

About the Research

OfficeTeam worked with independent research firms to survey two populations: professionals and managers. Survey results are based on responses from more than 1,000 U.S. workers 18 years of age or older and employed in office environments, and more than 300 senior managers and 300 HR managers at U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.

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