Beat the heat: Appropriate meeting attire

Professional attire is the last thing you’ll want to wear for work in a heatwave. Sitting in a meeting wearing constrictive clothing, such as a suit or tie, is likely to divert your attention from the agenda because you’ll feel so hot and uncomfortable.

The question is, how can you beat the heat, yet still wear the appropriate meeting attire? Can you dress down, while still maintaining the professional standards your company expects?

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Are suits a must for meetings?

When the temperature’s rising, business must continue, but deciding what to wear for a meeting during warmer months can be a headache in itself.

Every workplace tends to have its own dress code policy. Unless you’re self-employed and can make your own decision, it’s best to ask your employer if in any doubt. While it’s never a good idea to wear garments that look like beachwear, such as flip-flops, to the office, you may get away with something less starchy than a suit.

However, if your business requires that a smart suit is worn, make sure you buy one in a lightweight material. Professional attire is usually made from heavy fabrics that aren’t suitable for hot weather. When shopping for workwear, look for suits in lighter fabrics, such as linen, cotton or silk.

Individual employers may choose to relax the rules during a hot spell and permit employees to ditch suits and ties altogether. It’s possible to achieve a professional look while wearing chinos and a button-down shirt.

Should you always wear a tie?

Wearing a tie can be particularly uncomfortable when it’s hot. This issue can come down to reasonable behaviour and compromise between managers and employees. There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to ties, but you could try asking your line manager what is acceptable when the temperature rises.

A short-sleeved shirt with a button-down collar, and loose linen trousers, can look smarter than a heavy suit, long-sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled up, top button undone and a tie hanging limply around your hot damp neck.

Lightweight jackets, including partially lined or unlined blazers, always look smart. Avoid wearing a tight slimline shirt underneath and go for a looser fit instead.

When buying a dress for work, choose a lightweight material and have the option of wearing a jacket or cardigan over the top if your arms feel chilly later on.

Is there ever room for casual clothing in a meeting?

This can be decided based on the business and the meeting objectives. Determine whether it’s a casual or professional gathering. If it’s an internal meeting with colleagues, the dress code may not be as strict. However, if you have clients arriving, it may be preferable to retain a professional appearance for the meeting, rather than appearing too casual.

If you’re hosting a video conference, depending on how understanding your employer is, you could wear a shirt and tie, while donning your shorts under the table, out of sight.

Sadly, even in today’s inclusive office environment, women tend to get away with wearing less formal clothing than their male colleagues. While women can wear a dress and sandals, or perhaps knee-length shorts, some employers frown on men who adopt the same approach.

According to UK equality laws, business dress codes must apply to all employees, no matter what their gender. However, they may have different requirements, as long as they are of a similar standard. The rules can’t be applied more strictly to one gender over another.

While there may be a requirement for male employees to wear a shirt and tie, female employees may be required to wear “smart office attire” without stipulating one particular garment. This is because there’s no specific female equivalent to a shirt and tie.

Acceptable workwear can be determined by an individual employer’s interpretation of the dress code. As long as the requirements don’t discriminate against one gender, they won’t be considered unlawful.

Different regional variations

Your choice of appropriate meeting attire may also be influenced by where you live. For example, in London, the average temperature in July is 73°F, although it has been higher than this in recent years.

During summer 2022, the temperature in the capital reached 82°F, the official threshold for a heatwave. Delegates hiring meeting rooms in London could be excused for adopting less formal attire. Similarly, if your company is hosting employee-only events at training rooms in London, it may be sensible to relax the normal guidelines.

The weather tends to be much cooler in general north of the border. The highest temperature in parts of Scotland in summer 2022 was 66°F, according to data compiled by Statista. This can be more manageable in the workplace in terms of what to wear.

The trades union, TUC, is calling on employers to temporarily relax dress codes to help employees cope in hot weather. The organisation also suggests health and safety laws should be amended to stipulate a safe maximum temperature for workers. Currently, there isn’t one and employees are legally expected to work, however hot it may be.

The TUC suggests employers should not only allow more casual clothing, but they should also be obliged to adopt cooling measures when the workplace temperature reaches 78°F. It also wants the maximum indoor workplace temperature to be set at 90°F, with anything above this being deemed too hot to work safely.

Regardless of how hot it is, the TUC agrees some attire will never be acceptable in the office – employees should not be “made to suffer unnecessarily” in the heat just for the sake of appearances though.

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