Ahhh summer. Warm mornings followed by scorching afternoons that melt away winter wardrobes consisting of slacks, blazers, and stuffy suits. It is normal to want to stay cool during the hot summer months. Many organizations have workplace policies that prevent employees from wearing clothes that fall into the “casual” or revealing category.

Whatever the policy, there are bound to be employees who push the limits and try to get away with wearing clothes that test the boundaries. As managers, it is important to ensure that casual, summertime dress habits don’t negatively affect the workplace. It is possible to find a balance between maintaining a professional presentation to clients and colleagues while accommodating the inevitable requests for exceptions to the dress code policy.

These exceptions can be minor, temporary changes that will tell your employees that you do listen to and care about their wants and needs. When implementing these changes, communication is key. When trying to determine the best approach to communicate these changes, consider focusing on employee morale, workplace safety, and company image as reasons for implementing the change, and why it is important to adhere to the standards and policies.

Communicate the modifications to the policy clearly and in writing. Provide examples of the temporary changes that you are allowing during the summer months and clearly state what is and is not acceptable. Examples include:

  • Tactful, professional shorts and capri pants are permitted (e.g., dress shorts that reach the knee). Prohibited shorts include shorts above the knee, denim cutoffs, etc.).
  • Business casual shoes are permitted, but flip-flops and other beach-type sandals are inappropriate.
  • Summer dresses are permitted so long as the dress meets standard, company requirements (e.g., skirt length, amount of skin shown; for example, if the dress has spaghetti straps, consider wearing a cardigan while working)

When attempting to maintain a balance between accommodating employee requests for a summer dress code and ensuring that professional standards are still met, temporary compromises might just do the trick. Maintaining employee morale is important and temporary policy changes can help alleviate summertime crankiness brought on by the rising temperatures!