Do Uniform Build Team Spirit

Happy team

Most companies have a dress code for their employees. While degrees of formality vary, you can expect shorts, flip-flops, and extremely casual attire to be banned. Startups are an interesting exception since they’re notorious for being lax with their dress codes, and some don’t even have one—so you’ll be perfectly fine as long as you’re wearing something!

Since dress codes only consist of a set of rules, employees are generally free to choose whatever outfit they want as long as these conform to the dress code. However, here’s a question that every company, whether a corporate multinational or a startup, has to consider: what about coming up with a uniform for employees? Touted for boosting solidarity, uniforms are popular among schools and athletic teams, and it’s not too much of a stretch to apply them to a work context as well. In fact, it’s more or less common practice for businesses in specific industries such as health, food, and service.

For startups, uniforms can seem counterintuitive because of the laidback, restriction-free thrust of typical startup culture. Consider, though, that startups are famous for having implicit uniforms—hoodies, T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers are especially popular among techies. Many notable figures such as Steve Jobs of Apple and Mark Zuckerberg even have their own “uniform,” turning to the same outfit everyday.

Do uniforms really build team spirit? Here’s how they make an impact in the workplace:

Belonging and Allegiance

 When employees wear the same uniform all together, it fosters solidarity and makes individuals feel that they belong, grounding their sense of identity within the company. Regardless of how different they may be individually, uniforms emphasize that they’re on equal standing and striving together towards a common goal. This sense of unity is especially important for startups fresh off the ground, which are still in the process of establishing their story as a business. In fact, a study revealed that students with uniforms were more socially comfortable and less bullied; in a work context, employees with uniforms tend to be invested in mutual growth and care about their colleagues.

Branding and Professionalism

Team spirit is first and foremost felt on the inside, but it also makes its mark on the audience—in this case, potential and current customers. Uniforms effortlessly show off your company’s branding, exemplifying what your company is about. On a practical level, they’re especially helpful for employees dealing directly with customers or when attending events and industry shows where representation is important. Research shows that customers react more positively to airline carriers with uniformed staff. In a fiercely competitive market, the visibility can give your company an edge and emphasize an air of professionalism. 

Productivity and Efficiency

Uniforms can affect performance directly. It’s well-known in psychology that what you wear influences your mindset and you act, and employees have been shown to shift their thinking when they put on their work clothes, which helps set apart their professional life from their leisure time. In another study, students taking a test while wearing a doctor’s white coat performed better. Having a uniform can make employees more detail-oriented and productive. A side effect is that preparing for work gets easier—employees spend less time and energy choosing what to wear, and overall punctuality might improve!

Uniforms or Not?

There’s no hard and fast answer as to whether you should make uniforms a staple for your company. On the flipside, uniforms lead to additional expense for the company, not to mention updates might be necessary every year or so. However, uniforms give a huge boost to team spirit, and there’s a lot of room for flexibility. For one, they don’t have to be used daily. You can opt to enforce uniforms only for certain days or special events, and there can even be slightly different designs per team.

A major concern is that employees might not like how the uniform looks. Worse, they might feel like uniforms constrain their individuality and self-expression. To address these, creating the uniform should be a democratic process, with employees participating in the brainstorming process. During the design process, put your branding at the forefront. Think about your company’s personality and what look would be best. Custom-branded T-shirts are especially popular with startups, for example.

Another important point is to give room to personalize. Maybe employees can wear certain accessories or belts, or pair whatever they want with a uniform top; you might also offer several choices for designs. In line with their work culture, startups can let their creativity loose on this. The right uniform conveys your brand well, and it has staying power—evolving over the years with your company, always inspiring comfort and loyalty among both employees and customers.

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

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