Whether it is for a financial corporation, a service provider or a factory floor, deciding whether to introduce logo work clothes or to adopt a DIY policy, choice of workwear is important. Most business owners like the idea of a corporate uniform, but wonder if it is right for them?
Admittedly, uniforms are associated with specific types of industry, like the food and health sectors (restaurants, food processing, hospitals), and public services (police, military). But research has confirmed the overwhelming advantages of adopting a corporate uniform in almost every sector.
The idea that image wear is an effective branding tool is a widely held belief in developed economies. The Western Workwear Report, published by Frost & Sullivan in 2010, revealed that UK companies spend an estimated €640.9 million on uniforming their workers. It’s a major investment that places the UK high on the corporate uniform and logoed workwear table. In Western Europe, the industry is worth an estimated €3.2 billion, and projections suggest it will growth by 3.3% annually until 2016.
Appearance is Everything
Consumers expect high standards from professional services, but there is evidence to support the idea that even an expert dressed in casual work clothes is trusted less than a novice wearing official company attire.
For example, if a consumer has a problem with their plasma TV and calls ‘Bright Sparks Ltd’ to solve the problem, they are more likely to trust the electronics expert if he arrives in a neatly presented uniform with a ‘Bright Sparks Ltd’ logo emblazoned on the shirt front, than if he arrives in Levi’s jeans and an everyday t-shirt.
It is the first impression that generally lasts, and image wear is designed to make sure the first impression is a positive one.
Research has upheld the idea that employee uniforms signal a greater professionalism, as well as offering visual clues to what the company does and even how it sees itself. Uniformed, logoed work clothes build a ‘front-of-mind consciousness’ in the consumer, and consequently a higher degree of confidence in the company.
More Than Consumer Benefits
There are other benefits to using a corporate uniform. For example, uniforms have been shown to increase attention spans amongst workers, contributing to a greater productivity, better quality work and even higher levels of creativity and resourcefulness.
Research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology January 2012, concluded that worker performance can be influenced by their work clothes, even to the extent that their behaviour and attitude can change. According to the research, wearing a lab coat can increase attention to detail, which is what laboratory scientists are required to have.
However, the research also revealed that workwear needs to fit the job – a painter who was given a lab coat to wear experienced no improvement in performance or quality of work. So, it is as important that a worker feels comfortable in their work clothes as it is to include a company logo in the design.
For large companies, with several different divisions and departments, there are other practical advantages to having uniformed work clothes for their staff.
True, it helps workers feel part of a team, and can help to motivate them in terms of performance, concentration and creativity. But by having minor variations to a corporate uniform, staff can feel part of their own particular team while also identifying with the corporation at large.
For example, a major garden centre might have their nursery staff wear green polo shirts, their furniture staff wear yellow polo shirts, and their warehouse and delivery staff wear blue polo shirts. The clothing design is the same, and all staff wear the same company logo, but the image wear distinguishes each department.
Forget About Going DIY?
But is a DIY work clothes policy really such a bad idea? Well, corporate uniforms are a huge benefit to companies reliant on both teamwork and interaction with the public, but when an employer is more reliant on individuals, going DIY is a viable option (though a dress code often exists).
For example, a magazine publisher is unlikely to ask their journalists to wear the company logo when interviewing and researching their pieces, while a law firm will expect its lawyers to wear a suit but not with the firm’s logo on the jacket.
Projecting a professional image to a consumer public that expects professionalism is crucial in highly competitive sectors. But building confidence in standards or work, hygiene and honesty is equally important. The right corporate uniform can accomplish that.
Much as a firm handshake reveals a lot about the person you are doing business with, the image wear their company adopts can indicate what they are all about too.