The survey of 1,018 Australian adults from buy now, pay later provider Klarna and YouGov found two-thirds of office workers wanted more freedom to express their own personal style at work. 

Prior to the most recent COVID outbreak, many businesses had allowed employees to return to the office, with a strong increase in activity in most central business districts (CBDs).

The survey found 80% of respondents agreed they should be able to freely express themselves when in the office, but only 22% said they could wear whatever clothes and accessories they wished. 

The desire to ditch the dress code also appears to go beyond 'materialistic' intentions. 

Almost half (49%) of respondents said expressing their own personal style would make them feel more valued, while 85% said they were more productive wearing clothes they were comfortable in. 

Australian-based stylist, Fleur Egan, said the pandemic had caused a shift in workers values towards fashion and self expression. 

"In 2021, people expect to be able to be themselves no matter where they are or what they do. The pandemic shifted where and how we worked," Ms Egan said.

"It also woke us up to the fact that some work expectations, such as the dress code, were and are outdated." 

Office dress codes were also found to be a financial burden on many workers. 

More than eight in ten (82%) office workers confirmed they bought different clothes for the office they otherwise wouldn't need. 

While 62% of respondents spent on average $919 on office clothes each year, 25% spent more than $1,000 annually, and 6% spent more than $3,000. 

Ms Egan said an increasing number of Australian designers were redefining the concept of work wear. 

"There’s momentum in the category, and if we can unshackle our expectations around what is and isn’t appropriate in the office setting, we’ll all be better for it," she said.

Although many workers were keen to kick the corporate look, almost two-thirds (64%) said they were concerned they would be judged for not dressing to a certain standard. 

David Sandtrom, Chief Marketing Officer of Klarna, said the company was calling on businesses to ditch the dress code. 

"At Klarna, our employees aren’t required to abide by a specific corporate dress code," Mr Sandtrom said.

"As long as you're appropriately covered, the most we require in our Sydney office is that they wear shoes in external meetings.

"We empower them to shake it up and allow for their individuality. This in turn, has helped us foster a really great, creative and productive work environment. We implore others to do the same."

Photo by Romain V on Unsplash