Female workers frustrated by work ‘stress codes’

  • The average female worker spends five months of her life thinking about what to wear to work
  • On a typical work day, women will spend 14 minutes thinking and talking about their attire – equivalent to two and a half days every single year
  • A quarter of women have been subject to unwanted comments about their appearance at work
  • Female workers feel pressure from male management to dress a certain way
  • 88% of men don’t worry about their work dress code

MONDAY 4TH DECEMBER 2017 – LONDON, UK – Employees across the UK have called for an end to the ‘office stress code’ as research shows that female workers are being put through heightened stress due to a lack of clarity around what they are expected to wear at work.

According to a survey of 2,000 male and female office workers, commissioned by leading jobs board totaljobs, the average female worker spends over five months of her life thinking about what to wear to work.

On a typical working day, women will think about their choice of attire for 14 minutes, this is equivalent to two and a half days every single year. Over the average working lifetime of 47 years, that’s 118 days that women will spend pondering what to wear in front of the mirror.

By comparison, male workers will spend just nine minutes a day picking what to wear before setting off on their journey to work. Showing the difference in attitudes, 88% of male workers claim they don’t ever worry about their office dress code, with two-thirds (66%) of men claiming they never find it difficult to select an outfit for work.

Female workers getting raw deal

The figures indicate that female workers are having to put up with unwanted opinions and comments when deciding what to wear to work, which appears to be a root of a lot of this stress.

For example, over a quarter (28%) of female workers say they have been subject to unwanted comments about their appearance at work. Of the female workers who have received unwanted comments, 16% had been taken aside at work as they are wearing revealing clothing and shockingly, one in ten (9%) female workers say they have been sent home to change as a result of the outfit what they arrived to work in.

The report would suggest that these types of behaviour are making female workers more conscious of what they wear to work and how this might be received. For example, one in eight women (12%) claim they feel pressured by management of the opposite sex to dress in a certain way, while a further 19% saying they feel their company culture sets an expectation as to how they feel they should dress.

Overall, 15% of those polled believe there is a lack of clarity in the workplace about company dress code, and 9% have absolutely no sense of what management wants them to wear.

Dress down at your peril

The research also indicated that both men and women ‘dress down’ for work in the UK at their peril. A quarter (23%) of female workers have been told they look ‘tired’ when they have dressed casually, with a further 13% saying they have been asked if they were sick. The study found that whilst men also receive unwanted comments when they dress down, they are less likely to be on the end of comments that women. For example, only 4% of men have been quizzed if they are sick when dressing down for work, with 7% saying they have been told they look ‘tired’.

It would appear dressing down isn’t the only circumstance that can cause female workers to stress. For example, 1 in 5 (19%) say they get stressed deciding what to wear for meetings with senior management, with 18% not sure what is expected of them when it comes to dressing in front of clients.

Even office parties, which are meant to be the highlight of the working year, end up leaving 31% of women stressed when it comes to selecting their outfit, compared to just 16% for men.

Whilst it appears that both genders endure vastly different levels of pressure with their work wear, both genders have agreed on attire that is unsuitable to wear at work. Both parties deemed shorts the most unacceptable item of clothing to wear to work.

Top five unsuitable items to wear at work:

  1. Shorts (57%)
  2. Hoodies/Tracksuits (52%)
  3. Slogan T-Shirts (48%)
  4. Hats/Caps (46%)
  5. Sandals/Flip Flops (41%)

Overall. over a third (37%) of British workers feel that office dress codes are biased and want to call for employers to enforce a fair and equal dress code for all employees.

David Clift, HR Director at totaljobs, comments: This study really indicates the uncertainty around dress codes in the workplace and how it is leading to greater numbers of workers worrying about what they wear and what it potentially says about them. Our report indicates that female workers are more impacted by ambiguity around dress codes and are more likely to face unnecessary and unwanted stress or comments from colleagues.

We hope that by revealing these findings, employers begin to understand how important it is to outline exactly what is expected in terms of the attire their employees wear to work. Ideally, this would contain specific guidance would help both male and female employees to feel more comfortable in what they wear at work.  We are keen that employers actively look at ways to develop a gender-neutral dress code.”


About totaljobs:

Totaljobs is one of UK’s leading job boards, attracting 12 million visits and 3 million applications from qualified jobseekers every month. 130,000 new candidates register with us each month who have an average of 170,000 jobs a month to choose from, posted by thousands of employers including Amazon, Sky, Virgin Media, DHL amongst many others.

We were formed in 1999 and we are part of Totaljobs Group Ltd, the largest and fastest growing UK job board company in the UK. Our head office is in London, and we also have offices in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and Glasgow.

In turn, Totaljobs Group Ltd is a significant division of StepStone Group, one of the largest job board companies in the world and a subsidiary of Axel Springer Digital Classifieds.

Visit the totaljobs website: www.totaljobs.com