WORK SHOP: PERSONAL TRAINER - Should we implement a "dress-down Friday"?

STEPHEN BUBB, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO)

What is the latest thinking on this?

My friends in the City tell me there are now three camps on this.

First there are those who adhere to "dress-down Friday

but wear suits for the rest of the week. Then there are those who have got fed up with the trials and tribulations of choosing what to wear as "casual

and have ditched it altogether. And lastly those whose companies have decided to extend Friday's casual through to Monday.

The original idea was probably quite a good one. It sprang from a desire to recognise the work-life balance of employees and have a slightly more relaxed atmosphere on the lead up to the weekend. The problem arose with what counted as "casual". The nice thing about business wear is that it is relatively simple to put together. But are chinos OK but not jeans? And if jeans are OK, can you allow a fashionable tear in the fabric at the knee?

One City firm has had to issue instructions about what is appropriate casual wear for their "dress-down Friday". It decided that midriff revealing T-shirts were just too distracting. And it is clear that casual ought not to mean untidy. No excuse for licensed slobs.

Of course the other problem with "dress-down Friday

is where you need to attend a meeting with clients and so you have to keep a spare set of business clothes handy in the office. It slightly defeats the purpose.

Anyone in a senior position has to be extremely careful about their own personal branding. The clothes you wear send an extremely important signal to the people you deal with. Remember first impressions count and around 90 per cent is a judgment based on visual impact. If you are working in a homelessness project, you will dress appropriately for the clients you work with.

If you are meeting a bunch of councillors to ask for money, formal wear is de rigeur.

In my tips on networking to chief executives, I stress the importance of the right type of clothes, colours and structure. Your clothes and how you wear them can be an important aid to your effectiveness as a manager and leader.

There are lots of stereotypes about how people dress in the voluntary sector - T-shirts and sandals, for example. Perhaps we shouldn't be worried about all this, but the fact is that people make judgments on the visual impression they get. A book does get judged by its cover. So my final tip is out with the sandals and in with the Gucci shoes.

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