Blue suit, check. Tie, check. Grasp on reality … maybe not!

By Emma Barker at Homegroup


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Walk into a typical meeting in the property industry and what would you find – a band of suited and booted, business-dress-wearing employees who may or may not feel comfortable in their attire but feel it necessary for the workplace or even have it forced upon them by a company dress code.

Although the modern office has changed (and in some cases doesn’t exist anymore) there seems to be a bit of a lag in our industry, particularly in what we wear to work. But surely if you have a suit on you’ll be taken more seriously? It guarantees you know more than the other person in their t-shirt, right? Not necessarily!

Look at this guy, swanning in at 9:05am wearing chinos with no jacket. And I think I saw a tattoo on his arm – he may as well keep that backpack on as he’s definitely not staying. How could he possibly be taken seriously in that get up? He must be some weird ‘loonie leftie’* who’ll want to wear flip flops in the summer and only build affordable housing on our prime piece of land. No thanks, please see yourself out!

Unless you’re an architect of course, who, for some reason, get a free ride in the attire department. The phrase ‘you’re dressed like an architect’ was aimed at me in the office one day. ‘Is that a compliment?’ I said, knowing full well the answer was a resounding ‘no’ … ‘well, just make sure the MD doesn’t see you’. How ridiculous of me to think that a leopard print shirt was appropriate!

It is a case of changing perceptions – there are very few offices in other industries that insist on suits – the property industry just needs to catch up. I am a Development Manager and regularly wear jeans to work, does that make me less productive/not as good at my job? No, of course it doesn’t. If I came into work in a suit, the old ‘do you have a job interview?’ jokes would be fired at me before I’d even got my coat off. I’m in the lucky position where my aptitude far outweighs what I wear to the office, but unfortunately in the property industry I’m in the minority.

Now I’m sure some of you will harp back to when, on non-uniform** day at school, all productivity went out of the window and everyone was more interested in what other people were wearing than actually doing any work. However, we’re all adults here. Nobody’s going to ask you to pay 50p to wear your favourite t-shirt to work and there’ll be nobody getting into a bath full of beans.

What you choose to wear reflects your personality and your own style. Does that mean the big corporates are subduing people’s creativity by dictating what they can and cannot wear? I’m not sure it’s as deep as that. Though some may argue otherwise, I think it’s more to do with the classic tale of how it’s always been done. Imagine if one day, everyone in our industry decided to wear what they wanted. Imagine a world without suits and ties, without “business-dress” and snide comments when you’re not in a jacket … cue the end of all productivity, nothing would get done, the office would be filled with people hiding under tables or rocking in the corner, unable to work and make the company money due to lack of drive that comes as an added extra when purchasing your blue suit. Or not.

If this were the case, none of the tech start-ups would be making any money, comms consultancies would have empty beer fridges, and Google would have their indoor slides on eBay faster than you could say Larry Page.

Now I don’t want you to think I’m dictating that everyone must wear ‘casual’ attire to work. If someone felt more comfortable in a suit, I say go ahead! Whatever works for you. Personally, suits aren’t my thing and even when I worked in a super corporate environment I managed to bend the rules slightly and add colour (and prints). However, if a person is judged by what they’re wearing, not their ability to do their job, is our industry missing a trick? Why can’t people be great at their jobs AND wear a shirt with birds on?

What’s required is a shift, but this needs to come from within the property industry and, if we’re going to attract the right talent, we need to keep up with times. As YEP members, I imagine you may see towing the line as the way forward in terms of dress code, not wanting to rock the boat until you’re bedded in to a company or not wanting to rock the boat at all. However, just because “this is how it’s always been”, it doesn’t mean it should remain.

So strap on your backpack and leave that jacket behind … let’s wear what we want (leopard print optional) and be just as productive, if not more so, than when stuck in our boring suits!

*yes, this phrase was actually used in general conversation by one of my ex-colleagues!

**or “own clothes day” which I never really got as I thought I owned my uniform as well??

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