What’s Proper in the Workplace Is Changing

Once frowned upon, visible tattoos, casual attire and non-traditional hair colors are now more acceptable, Accountemps research shows.

While nearly all senior managers surveyed by Accountemps (91%) said organizations have loosened up over the past decade, certain behaviors are still taboo, the most common being using foul language (54%), bringing pets to the office (51%) and displaying political signs or messages (48%).

However, about one-third of companies now see no problem with employees donning visible tattoos (35%), casual attire (34%) and non-traditional hair colors (34%). Managers who said the workplace has become more relaxed cited looser societal standards (59%) and companies catering to younger professionals (52%) as the top reasons for the shift.

One in three employers said having nontraditional piercings (33%) and using casual language or emojis in emails (30%) were problematic in the past but are now acceptable.

Still, approximately 40% of respondents reported that playing music without headphones (41%) and streaming sports events (39%) remain office no-nos. In addition to exhibiting political signs or messages at work, senior managers said streaming political events (44%) and talking about politics (33%) are inappropriate.

“Workplace policies today are designed to attract and retain employees, and that often means they’re more relaxed,” says Mike Steinitz, executive director of Accountemps. “There can also be unwritten rules of behavior or dress that are specific to a particular company or industry.”

He added, “Staff shouldn’t feel like they’re walking on eggshells at work, but it’s important to be respectful of others and ensure your actions don’t cause a distraction or compromise your professional reputation.”

The online survey included responses from more than 2,800 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees in 28 major U.S. cities.