Jesse H. Neal Award
Jesse H. Neal Award
2014, 2013, 2012,
2011, 2010, 2009
Best Publication and
Best How-to Article
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From Business Casual to Business
FROM the EDITOR
The office dress code continues to get more casual,
despite the fact that this trend has been steadily
evolving for decades. I have a quaint memory of my
first experience with business casual in the 1990s
when we were granted permission – but only on Fridays.
Once that door was cracked open, it took just a few months to achieve casual every day.
During the evolution there were years when workers and clothing designers struggled to
determine what shirts or shoes were fancy enough for business casual, but that is also a
quaint memory. “No-iron” shirts gave way to “I don’t even own an iron.” For the vaguely
defined “millennial” – the largest generational group in the workforce – casual dress is
seen as a perk that employers must offer to attract talent. In the past year, staid JP Morgan
Chase, one of the last holdouts, introduced business casual for its bankers. These days the
arrival of guys in dark suits is unsettling – they must be FBI or Secret Service.
So it comes as no surprise that elements of the cozy, casual home office are steadily
appearing in the real office. At last month’s NeoCon trade show in Chicago, I saw more and
more examples of softer, stuffed, lounge-like office furniture with pitched backs. Workers
are invited to retreat from the restrictive open plan to what one supplier calls “active relaxation.” Comfortable becomes associated with creative. Stools are designed to fit together
in many configurations – including a kind of bed where you can stretch out on your back.
“Personalizing your workspace” no longer means setting a framed family photo on your
desk – we are now in the “we to me” workplace. Want to rearrange the walls? Partitions
with a prominent hardwood wheel make it easier than rearranging your living room furniture. Want to exercise at work, much like you might use a treadmill while watching TV at
home? Then a treadmill desk may be for you. Want to relax outside in the sunshine? Casual
outdoor furniture dresses down the corporate courtyard to a residential backyard.
If comfortable office design evolves over time like business casual dress has, comfort
will become a perk that many workers expect and that employers will willingly provide.
Chief Content Director