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Athleisure at the Office: How Companies Are Adapting Dress Code Policies

Athleisure at Work: How Companies Are Adapting Dress Code Policies

Today’s workplaces are significantly shifting regarding office attire and dress codes. Whereas crisp suits, formal attire, and business casual dominated previous decades, companies across industries are now embracing a more relaxed approach. Employees are increasingly pushing for the option to incorporate athleisure into their professional wardrobes.

Watch this video from CBS News, which gives insight into what you can expect in the workplace.

This transition speaks to evolving perspectives on work-life balance, employee satisfaction, productivity, and company culture. Rather than rigid policies enforcing dress shoes and button-downs, HR teams now work with company leadership to staff to establish guidelines for greater comfort without compromising workplace vibe.

The rise of the athleisure trend represents a cultural shift for leaders and employees to rethink conventions. Amending dress code policies to permit athleisure signals a willingness to listen, empathize, and evolve corporate norms.

Understanding Office Athleisure Wear

Understanding Men's Office Athleisure

The concept of “athleisure” combines athletics and leisure to describe clothing that bridges gym attire and everyday wear. Over the past decade, athleisure wear has evolved from stretchy yoga pants and hoodies into a versatile style that meets the demands of modern life.

For work context, athleisure clothes allow employees to incorporate the comfort and performance they’ve come to expect from activewear into business casual office attire. Rather than decidedly sporty pieces, today’s athleisure clothing intersects with an elevated yet relaxed fit suiting any work day.

Business Casual Athleisure

Business casual athleisure merges the comfort of athletic wear with the professional look of business attire. This hybrid allows you to effortlessly transition from the office to casual settings.

Focus on pieces made from comfortable fabrics with clean designs. Minimalist aesthetics provide a polished look while ensuring ease of movement and breathability. Think joggers, polo shirts, lightweight blazers, and stylish sneakers. This combination offers a balanced approach to office wear, meeting the modern need for comfort and professionalism.

Imagine for a minute wearing the BYLT Coastal Overshirt, BYLT Everyday Pants, and Koio Portofino Sneakers to the office. Wow. This is business casual athleisure at its finest.

Defining Office Athleisure in a Work Context

At its core, athleisure clothing focuses on freedom of movement, moisture-wicking technology, and soft, breathable fabrics. When adapted for the office, athleisure looks more tailored through structured cuts, subtle patterns instead of loud prints, and materials that drape rather than cling.

For example, men’s joggers made of moisture-wicking fabric with an elastic waistband and cuffed hems look elevated when combined with a quarter zip and white sneakers. Paired with the Cuts Legacy Jacket, the attire achieves a work-appropriate athleisure style.

The Rise of Athleisure Clothes for the Office

Athleisure emerged as an industry trend around 2014 but took another half-decade to waft its way from yoga studios to the corner suite. The pandemic and remote work explosion likely expedited this crossover.

As employees decorated home offices and crafted makeshift standing desks, athleisure offered the natural solution. Donning stretchy joggers and sweat-wicking tanks for Zoom calls quickly normalized athleisure’s presence in professional settings. Rather than make temporary exceptions, companies now recognize the benefits of athleisure wear, even for in-office work.

Data from staffing firm Robert Half found that about 25% of US companies now allow athleisure wear in workplace dress codes. The same report noted a steady rise in lenient policies since 2020, when only 13% of organizations permitted athleisure on-site.

Employees overwhelmingly endorse the shift as well. Surveys show that over 80% of workers feel more motivated and productive when incorporating athletic-inspired attire into their workwear rotation.

The Shift in Dress Code Policies

Companies face pressure to update longstanding dress code conventions with the growing acceptance of athleisure in the office. Rules strictly delineating business formal, business casual, and casual dress codes now appear antiquated and out-of-touch in 2023’s work climate, favoring flexibility and work-life integration.

In recent years, major players across industries from finance to tech have updated dress code policies to promote casual everyday wear. Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Apple, and Google made headlines, slimming down prescriptive guidelines dictating professional attire. Employees now freely wear athleisure gear to the office.

Morgan Stanley took an even more aggressive approach. In 2016, the wealth management firm launched “Flexible Dress Code” Fridays, encouraging workers to embrace casual clothing, from athleisure joggers to jeans, on the last workday. The initiative aimed to boost morale, creativity, and collaboration in the final push towards weekend freedom.

But companies needn’t take an all-or-nothing view. Nuanced policies may establish athleisure-acceptable zones or days balancing employee desires with client expectations. The key is crafting guidelines with empathy and logic rather than outdated notions of formality.

Uh Oh … The HR Perspective

It’s not that bad.

HR has typically been the driver of dress code policies, among other things. The video below discusses the shifting dress codes in modern workplaces, where casual attire replaces formal business wear.

It outlines how various industries have eased up on strict suit-and-tie policies, now embracing more casual options like jeans and t-shirts. This reflects more significant cultural changes emphasizing creativity, collaboration, and employee comfort over stiff corporate formalities.

However, the video also examines the growing pains around redefining appropriate workwear. Without clear boundaries from management, employees are left unsure if their outfit crosses the line from business casual into inappropriate territory. 

The video argues that businesses must balance enabling personal expression and preserving professional standards. While comfort now outweighs convention, sharp grooming, and hygiene cannot slip—a relaxed outfit does not permit a sloppy presentation.

Key Athleisure Pieces for the Office

The rise of athleisure revolutionized women’s workwear first with versatile leggings, polished joggers, and breathable layers. Thankfully, the movement has impacted men’s office wardrobes, too. Beyond gym shorts, t-shirts, and running shoes, tailored athletic-inspired collections help guys fuse comfort with professionalism and poise. 

Essentials of Athleisure Wear for Work Days

The key to pulling off athleisure at the office comes down to fabrics and styles. Rather than baggy sweats, elevated menswear basics bridge boardrooms and beer leagues with strategic tailoring adding polish.

Joggers present a comfortable alternative to slacks. Choose a tapered or straight-leg look with an elastic waistband and cuffed hems to maintain a polished vibe. Technical fabrics provide stretch and breathability, surpassing traditional pants and khakis.

Hoodies seem unlikely, but the right version easily transitions from a gym sesh to a client meeting when opting for elevated details. A soft interior lining and relaxed or slim cut shape allow for easy layering, while terry or jersey sweatshirt material upgrades the office.

Quarter-zips shine for temperamental transitional weather courtesy of lightweight sweat-wicking knits complete with a stand or mock neck detailing to provide versatile coverage. They optimize breathability, which is crucial for bold business casual.

Bomber jackets lend an edgy versatility, lacking in traditional suit coats and blazers. The iconic style stays wind and water-resistant thanks to technical nylon or knit fabrics contrasted with ribbed trims for extra insulation.

Pro Tip: When shopping, focus on quality over quantity—test stretch recovery and longevity. Stick to dark, neutral hues in black, gray, or navy. Finally, choose sweat-wicking technical fabrics over cotton to stay cool in meetings.

Brand Highlights: Rhone, Vuori, BYLT, and Cuts Clothing

Several athleisure brands have come onto the scene, offering versatile apparel and dope styles beyond just gym wear. These brands blend activewear functionality with pieces suited for the office and most other life situations.

Rhone built a cult following through ultra-comfortable activewear that transitions flawlessly from gym to street. The brand quickly expanded into a full lifestyle collection, including versatile basics like joggers, quarter-zips, and bomber jackets that suit work environments.

Vuori takes performance seriously, optimizing award-winning jogger and hoodie designs for all-day home or office wear. Expect elastic waistbands, wrinkle-resistant knits, and anti-odor technology within go-to joggers, hoodies, and other standard styles.

BYLT Basics fills the gap between streetwear and tailored looks with its abrasion-resistant, stretch-woven pants, shirts, and shorts, suitable for both in-office mobility and off-the-clock style.

Cuts Clothing modernizes workwear for the comfort generation through innovative fabrics with proprietary stretch-flex technology. The result delivers soft, mobile pieces like dress pants, button-downs, polos, and quarter-zips for all-day performance.

Athleisure hoodies for work

Even leaders like Lululemon now spotlight office-ready men’s athleisure collections with tapered ABC pants, meta-stretch blazers, merino crewnecks, and metal vent tech long sleeves—seamlessly blending from client calls to happy hours.

With expanded selections, guys enjoy endless options to fuse stretchy comfort with a put-together, palatable style, even in conservative workplaces.

Styling Athleisure for the Workplace

Don’t show up at the office in head-to-toe Lululemon gear. It will likely draw side-eyes, even with relaxed dress codes embracing the influence of athleisure wear. The key to acceptance means more than just swapping stiff slacks for stretchy joggers. Pulling off a polished yet comfortable aesthetic requires balancing relaxed collections with traditional workwear.

Blending Comfort with Professionalism

The trick to blending athleisure into workwear relies on anchor pieces. Start with joggers, then pair them with smart collared shirts or relaxed blazers. The casual joggers provide mobility, while the elevated layers maintain sophistication.

Try pairing joggers with an oversized button-down shirt left casually untucked for an effortlessly sharp aesthetic. Roll up the sleeves for a deliberate, relaxed vibe. Or pull on joggers with a quarter-zip pullover and an unstructured sport coat for a put-together mix of stretch and structure.

Footwear choices also balance the look. While ultra-comfortable sneakers suit the streets, level up with white sneakers for the office. Then, complete the outfit with a woven belt, watch, and leather bag.

When building the right fit, choose rich fabrics like premium cotton blends and cashmere with elevated sheens. Seek structured cuts even in relaxed pieces, and opt for versatile earth tones as a sophisticated palette. Maintaining tailored lines, fine materials, and a neutral color profile keeps casual office outfits refined.

The key is recognizing athleisure as a versatile ingredient rather than a standalone outfit. Anchor the soft joggers with sharp-collared shirts, refined loafers, and luxe layers. The results walk the line between comfortable and credible office attire.

Examples of Athleisure Office Outfits

Client Meetings: For in-person or team meetings, pair an elevated jogger in gray or navy with a Merino crewneck sweater layered underneath an unstructured sports coat. Swap oxfords for minimal white leather sneakers and a subtle watch. This balances polish with subdued comfort.

Office Happy Hours: Embrace casual Fridays by wearing dark joggers with a simple white tee or polo under a bomber jacket. Maintain sophisticated textures like melton wool, nylon outerwear, and luxe jersey tee fabrics. Finish with white leather low-tops. Ladies can contrast an athletic skirt with a silky cami and heels.

Creative Jobs: For casual startup jobs, wear relaxed joggers with a quarter-zip atop a graphic tee; anchor them with clean high-top sneakers. Mix elevated athleticwear with urban streetwear accents to maintain a youthful, creative vibe.

Balancing polished fabrics and accessory accents with a relaxed, modern fit is key. Structure outfits, minimizing overly casual or sporty pieces unsuited for client interactions.

Most importantly, athleisure wear increases men’s self-expression and comfort and gives employees greater confidence and satisfaction at the office. 

Overcoming Challenges with Athleisure at Work for Men

Despite the rising popularity of athleisure wear, misconceptions about appropriateness in professional settings still exist. Office policies adapt gradually as managers address valid concerns, balancing employee desires for comfort with client expectations for decorum.

Crafting clear athleisure-friendly guidelines keeps workplaces inclusive of modern styles while upholding standards. The evolution continues, but proven strategies pave an optimistic path forward.

Addressing Common Concerns and Misconceptions

Some traditionalists balk at incorporating athleisure into client meetings or management roles. Their objections typically center around looking “too casual,” which could signal laziness, undermine competence, and hurt respect.

However, being relaxed does not have to equal being unprofessional. The distinction lies in intent and execution. With reasonable rules and style coaching, polished athleisure in the office reinforces excellence rather than erodes it.

Too casual – “athleisure” implies casualness, but plenty of versions suit boardrooms through polished fabrics and refined silhouettes. Ban sloppy tees and wrinkled sweats, but understand how a tailored jogger replicates chinos.

Lacking professionalism—Employees must incorporate traditional workwear items like structured blazers, leather bags, and oxford shoes to balance activewear’s comfort. Set standards to prevent overly relaxed appearances.

Loss of respect – If leadership embraces athleisure options respectfully, so will clients and colleagues. Maintain decorum with the above guidelines so attire enhances rather than hinders credibility.

The key lies in understanding intent and execution. Solutions exist for every objection around athleisure in offices stemming from empathetic leadership willing to evolve norms.

Setting Guidelines for Athleisure in the Office

Firms no longer need to differentiate “business formal” from “business casual rigidly” and can now update their policies freely. However, abandoning guidelines risks losing professionalism.

Frame new codes through “intent, execution, and respect,” realizing athleisure meets modern needs when properly integrated:

  • Intent – Allow athleisure but set expectations that employees incorporate it neatly and intentionally, not just for maximum comfort
  • Execution – Provide examples of polished athleisure outfits; coach those pushing boundaries
  • Respect – Trust staff as professionals to balance personal style with workplace decorum

Managers should have candid discussions to identify concerns, share “dress for success” examples, and reinforce the commitment to employee wellbeing behind updated codes. Rather than doubting staff’s judgment, show faith in their professionalism. Empower them to balance personal style with workplace appropriateness.

With empathetic leadership and reasonable policies, companies can embrace athleisure’s potential to bolster morale while upholding premium performance. The evolution towards choice and comfort continues as managers amplify employees’ voices around modernizing antiquated rules.

Final Thoughts

Over the past few years, athleisure has exploded from a fashion fad into a mainstay in everyday wardrobes and workplace dress codes. Once unimaginable, polished joggers and fitted hoodies find acceptance even in buttoned-up corporate climates.

Along with flexibility in location, schedule, and environment, the rise of versatile athleisure wear gives professionals expanded freedom over self-expression. Paired intentionally with essential workwear items like blazers, oxfords, and handbags, stylish comfort need not sacrifice sophistication or credibility.

As cover-wearing conventions continually get challenged, all signs point towards accelerated adoption of athleisure wear in offices. The strategy for pioneering companies, managers, and aspiring professionals is to stay ahead with empathy, respect, and emotional intelligence toward policies benefiting employees and organizations alike. Don’t fear this flexibility – leverage athleisure wear to enhance your work life.


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