I have come to terms with being 32 weeks pregnant with twins and therefore, finding it increasingly difficult to find suitable clothes to wear to both my own office and those of my clients. Aside from the normal ‘central heating’ that comes with a multiple pregnancy, it would just have to be the hottest June in 40 years of recording temperatures in Ireland.
I’ve given in to having to work out my final weeks in leggings combined with some type of ‘smart’ maternity top. Just one of my plans (!) for while I’m on maternity leave, is to start an online store called maternitystyle.ie, which will feature proper work clothes for the first, second, and third trimester such as maternity suits and smart-casual wear.
Perhaps because I’m more tuned into my own work wear dilemma, I have noticed that I’m not the only one as we get to grips with the ‘notion’ of a heat wave in Ireland!
This time of year, the lines get blurred around what is appropriate to wear in the office and what is not. Of course, how we dress for work always involves context around the job we do. However, it an office environment, it is not unusual to see people sporting flip-flops, vest tops, shorts and a whole host of “active wear”. More and more companies ask for the topic of “Personal Presentation & Grooming” to be included in Customer Service workshop content to their staff. This can go as far as ensuring that nails and hair are well kept, there is no indecent exposure of the body features and that there is not an almighty dose of very expensive perfume or aftershave applied. The protest is often that if we don’t interact face to face with customers, it shouldn’t matter what we wear. It is worth remembering, though, that everybody has internal customers; that is, our colleagues, suppliers and other people who we work with even if we never actually meet a customer in our daily work.
So, because I will soon be exiting stage left for a couple of months, I have decided to leave you with some tips on behaving appropriately for the office in this hot and humid weather.
1. Flip-flops and man-sandals make a really annoying noise when people walk past in them. They are neither safe nor appropriate for an office. Also, your feet smell in them and we have to sit through a meeting with the smell wafting up to us. Please don’t do it.
2. Vest tops on ladies and sleeveless tops on men…hmmm….if you look so good in it, save it for the beach. At best, you will be a distraction and at worst you will look like 2lb of sugar in a 1lb bag. Beachwear of any kind is not advisable…and we know you want everyone in the office to notice your well-toned arms due to your long winter of punishing gym routines. Fun as this might be, it won’t get you noticed for the right reasons.
3. The smelly lunch debate rumbles on – particularly in hot weather, so have some consideration for others before tucking into your delicious fish salad. Eat smelly food in the canteen or outside on the picnic table or in your car. Or have it for breakfast at home instead.
4. On the topic of smells, just because the perfume/aftershave was ridiculously expensive, does not mean that you pour half the bottle on yourself every morning. You love the smell of it. Maybe other people around you don’t. The good news is that the more expensive the perfume, the less you need.
5. I have never known a workplace where there is not a conflict of some sort over the air conditioning. If you are a cold creature, make sure to bring a cardigan or some sort of appropriate sweater suitable for work so that you can put it on if it gets too cool on you. If you are always warm and want the air conditioning at its coldest, consider sitting closer to the actual vent itself or to a window. Wear clothes that can be easily removed if you are too hot without indecent exposure of the body features!
6. Body Odour – So this one is never easy to address at work. Some people simply sweat more than others, or they may do more manual tasks. Irish Water advice on water preservation aside, we are living in a society where it is standard practice to have a shower once a day – particularly when you work with other people. It’s just common courtesy.
7. Wash your Clothes – Body Odour is not always due to lack of showering. Sometimes it’s due to lack of washing one’s clothes. In fairness, there is no excuse for this with all the fine drying weather we have been having!! If you are particularly attached to a ‘look’ or an outfit, be like Mark Zuckerberg…buy 20 or 30 of the same shirt and pants so you look like you are always wearing the same clothes. That’s absolutely fine. At least you will not smell like you are always wearing the same clothes.
8. Stop biting your nails. I know, I know, it’s a habit and so on… It is also highly unprofessional and makes you look like you have a severe lack of confidence. Also, with all the work that there is to do, is that all you can be doing with your time right now? Sitting there with your fingers in your mouth?
9. Invest in some cooler, yet appropriate work clothes such as linen and cottons – there are plenty of options in high street stores. They do not have to be suits; you can mix and match casual pieces that don’t cost a fortune. And you can always put them away for the next Irish heat wave, in about 40 years’ time.
P.S. Managers, it’s your job to address issues around lack of personal grooming and appropriate presentation for the workplace. Ideally, this is something that is covered at induction so that people know what is expected of them. It is unreasonable and unfair to expect people to know what is and is not acceptable if this has not bee communicated with honesty and compassion. Don’t join in on the BMW (Bitching, Moaning and Whining) chat of others who are complaining about a colleague with regard to their personal grooming. Instead, agree to do something about it.