In the Line of Duty:what do employees really love and hate about their team uniform?
We interviewed retail and restaurant staff at London’s biggest shopping mall to find out.
Taking the time to undertake staff interviews as part of the uniform design process helps to ensure that your new corporate uniform will not only look good but perform its function, that your staff will feel comfortable wearing it and better represent your brand – and most importantly, that there’s as little wastage in your budget as possible and your uniform has longevity.
One of the most important things that a good corporate uniform designer will do before embarking on the design phase of a new uniform is to conduct research among staff to find out what they like or dislike about their current workwear and what they would improve to help them do their jobs better. On paper, many uniform designs and styles look great, but when it’s road-tested by staff on the shop floor, you can find that certain practical considerations have been overlooked.
To give you a feel for the kinds of answers you’re likely to hear from staff, we conducted a vox pop survey among retail and restaurant staff in Westfield, White City, London’s biggest shopping mall.
What do you like about wearing a uniform in general?
Saving time, feeling like part of a team, and being easily recognisable as staff were the main reasons employees gave for why they liked wearing a uniform to work. The responses matched the results of a recent JSD staff preferences survey where the top four prompted answers were: Save money (63%); Look and feel like a team (58%); Save time (53%); and Adds credibility (42%).
“It gets me in the mindset for work. And I know that when I put on [my uniform], I’m ready for work , that I’m at work, and know what I’m doing. It puts me on a par with my team members.” – Maive, Crepe Affairs (19)
“It’s easier to wear a uniform than your own clothes. You don’t get your own clothes dirty and it’s comfortable. We have head gear that makes us stand out a bit.” – Neet, Boost Juice (19)
“It brings a sense of team spirit plus it brings discipline.” – Shavas, Sky (35)
“It’s easy. I don’t have to get up in the morning and find an outfit.” – Filome, JD Sports (17)
“The fact that I can represent my company in a visual manner. When customers come, if I’m not wearing a uniform, they don’t know I work here.” – Daniel, Footlocker (18)
“It saves time and ensures everyone looks very standardised.” – Beatrice, L’Occitane (31)
“It gives me a sort of stature and security. It gives me a bit more presence especially if I’m standing here by myself.” – James, Kidzania (21)
What do you like about your uniform in particular?
Comfort was the reason most often cited. Aside from that, employees liked that the uniforms were a good fit for the brand and that the uniforms also represented their own style, to a point. When staff connect with your brand’s identity, this helps them project positive brand associations when dealing with customers. The more closely matched your staff uniform is with your brand identity, the easier that becomes as we all like to feel comfortable in our own skin. A uniform that makes employees feel self-conscious or awkward won’t last long; either that or your employees won’t!
“I like the fact that it’s really casual and comfortable, and it’s not over the top… It looks kind of funky.” – Neet, Boost Juice
“I can have it in my size. It’s light, it’s casual. And it suits the weather. When it’s cold, I can have jackets and fleeces.” – Shavas, Sky
“It’s comfortable and matches with the company.” – Filome, JD Sports
“The fact that it looks like a referee outfit and I like football.” – Daniel, Footlocker
“We’re about to change to look more sleek and modern and we are looking forward to the new uniforms.” – Beatrice, L’Occitane
“I think it’s very comfortable. The colours are very prominent and I like it myself.” – James, Kidzania
“We have a very corporate look… and I like to be well put together, clean and professional.
It matches our brand, which is quite classic and sophisticated, and I think we reflect that quite well.” – Anonymous, Prada (40)
Is there anything about your uniform that you would change or improve?
Well, not much to be honest. Most interviewees were happy with their uniforms on the whole. Any complaints were of a practical nature. One wanted a full apron to avoid getting her top half dirty and save on daily clothes washing. We posed the questions in the middle of the biggest heatwave ever seen in Britain, which may explain why seasonal uniforms were top of mind.
“I’d like to have a different uniform for winter and summer because in winter, this doesn’t work by itself and we need to wear our own tops underneath as it’s cold. And in the summer, we have to change our trousers and stuff.” – Neet, Boost Juice
“In the summer, it’s quite warm. All we can do is remove our cardigan… it’s quite generic and there’s no real differentiation between the seasons. I’d change it to have something lighter, fresher and prettier in the summer and a little bit more professional in the winter.” – Anonymous, Prada
In our survey, better fit (61%) and better fabric choice (50%) were the top two answers from respondents.
What is clear from these very short interviews with employees is that they are invested in their companies and see their uniforms as being part of their brand identity. As daily wearers, they know what works and what doesn’t, and they are best placed to advise on how you can make your uniforms better for you. Before you decide on a new design, be sure your uniform supplier takes the time to consult with them.
If you would like to talk to us about the process of designing, or redesigning your company uniform and the research we would do to make sure it is a hit with all your staff, do get in touch.