Dress down Monday!

I walked into the dentist’s office with an acquaintance. “What do you do?” She asked. I responded, “I am a lawyer”. Her response, “I would not have thought, aren’t lawyers to wear only black and white?”

I was wearing a plum coloured dress and started to wonder how much of a disguise it was of my legal prowess at the same time, I had thoughts fleet through my mind on how much this unintentional action had impacted the perception of me and what I did. The saying “dress as you want to be addressed” is common knowledge and many testimonies of missed opportunities and gains because of inappropriate dressing abound; there really is no need to delve in.

I may have misled you with the title and the paragraphs above that I write about dressing and maybe you are already ticked off at the simplicity of this, I apologize. My focus is different.

In recent times, various companies have adopted flexible policies to accommodate the so-called “idiosyncrasies” of employees.  Flexi-hours, permission to dress down and wear informal or semi-casual apparel, colourful sleeping pods, creches for children and in some creative spaces, critical business days like Mondays can also be dress down days.

In many cases, the companies have undertaken these policy changes as knee-jerk reactions to staff attrition or for similar reasons and so one cannot say that the making of these decisions were driven by ratiocination or strategy. In other cases, the adoption of these policies resulted simply from just replicating a picture or lay- out seen elsewhere. Increasingly, employers are realizing that some of these changes do not induce the expected results and the magnitude of investment in such may not deter the action they sought to cure. Likewise, professionals change jobs, move departments, adopt new roles and preferences at work with the same knee-jerk reaction, fear or emotional prejudice that has been described above. More actively, these professionals spend significant time clamoring for better conditions, protesting and getting fixated on the campaign for better working conditions without any particular strategy as well.

Please note that working conditions are critical to performance and so this is by no means an attempt to demean them, but my question seeks to assess the value-add or benefit of intentionally dressing our work lives for optimal benefit such that whether employer or professional, any changes made or requested are driven at a properly reviewed objective.

In an article titled “Consultants you are next” published in the December 2013 edition of the Harvard Business Review magazine, the authors opined that the forces which had disrupted many industries were now re-shaping consulting and it was important for service providers (both as individuals and body-corporates) to begin to re-design the work space for efficiency and value to remain sustainable. This is a big elephant in the room that needs to be addressed as many professionals are yet to be positioned for the challenges that this may bring.

Working conditions are required to facilitate ideation and not a mere feel good feeling as such this should be the primary reason a company or employee campaigns for amendments. If you were allowed to dress down on Monday, would that improve your capacity to deliver on work. For the employer, if you permitted employees to work from home, would it increase productivity and how would this be measured.

There is reportedly, a significant exodus from the professional services sector and it is traced to high stress and dissatisfaction with conditions of work. Flexi-hours alone will not solve the issue and where it is to be addressed, must be done holistically.

As such, for employers and professionals alike, in making choices or campaigning for flexible work conditions, the vote should be on any policy that would enable the following:

Ideation and development: in a disrupted business world, ideation is a necessity. With digitization of processes, more routine functions are losing their peculiarity as such, constant ideation is critical and work conditions must enable this.

Symbiotic benefits

While at common law, contractual relations are a master-servant relationship, increasingly so, the characterization of these relationships are taking on the form of collaborators and partners. This is because both sides realize that there is value to be gained from aligning objectives and work together towards this end.

Team efficiency

 A work from home policy that enables lethargy and lack of accountability can destroy the employer and the beneficiaries’ output, as such, the change must be so customized

Work-life Equity

Please note that the reference is not to “work life balance” but to a system which enables personal sustenance and satisfaction both in and out of work.

Unlocks personal capacity: work conditions which are not challenging create boredom and work conditions must be dressed in such a way as to encourage self-discovery and blossoming.

Lastly, in choosing, professionals must ensure that they remain accountable for tracking the skills garnered over time as in this age of machine learning and artificial intelligence, the professional must be careful to undertake working conditions which enable growth and seek to engage for amendments which further enhance skill acquisition from time to time.

(The Author, OYEYEMI ADERIBIGBE is a  senior associate at templars. She is also the current vice Chairman of the young lawyers’ of the Nigerian Bar Association on business law and the Young Lawyers’ Committee liaison officer of the African of Nigerian bar association-section on business law and the Young Lawyers’ Committee liaison officer of the African regional forum of the International bar association. You can reach her at  Oyeyemi.aderibigbe@ and

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