A sky-high slit in a short, tight skirt is a productivity killer. I know it, because I saw its effects firsthand this morning.
I was on my way to work when I crossed paths with the skirt. The 20-something female who was wearing it was otherwise professionally attired—pumps, shoulder bag, collared shirt, etc. Men and women alike were tripping off sidewalks and causing knots in their necks craning to see this skirt. People backtracked to see if it had been a trick of the eye. Later, the skirt was on my train platform. Again, heads turned faster than wind turbines. People may have missed their trains. How many minutes of manpower were lost in the course of a Tuesday morning, thanks to this skirt? And what happens when she gets to work?
I'm reminded of an episode of the TV show 30 Rock, when Liz Lemon (played by Tina Fey) confronts the barely dressed office receptionist Cerie about her need to wear a supportive undergarment because she's making people in the office uncomfortable. How about the fact that she's ruining their efficiency?
It looks as if the vast majority of reports on office dress codes and productivity have attempted to measure the individual's dress and his or her resulting productivity—often making reference to Casual Friday. I didn't find any that studied how what a person wears can distract coworkers.
There is, however, this New York Times story from 1998:
Holly M. Horning, the president of Image Design Group of Alexandria, Va., which teaches individuals and companies how to use image as a tool, works daily with the problem of office dress. In the course of her work, she has come across:
• A senior executive who runs several miles to work in his two-piece jogging suit and then strips to his T-shirt and running shorts and begins work without bothering to shower.
• A senior partner in a law firm who wore a polo shirt and jeans while greeting prospective clients in a major case. Judging him by his clothing, they assumed he was an associate and went elsewhere, offended because they thought the firm had assigned their case to an inexperienced lawyer.
• A woman who sent productivity plummeting by arriving for her job in the shortest of Lycra miniskirts and a strapless, stretchy bandeau top.
OK, so lost productivity on the way to work is debatable, but there's no question that once you're in the office, really inappropriate dress can do damage to your reputation, your relationship with your coworkers, the level of respect you command, and even the office's ability to focus its energies on the important thing: the work. But it's probably worth thinking about the walk to work, too. What if you take the same train as a key client or your boss?