7 tips on how to choose the best workwear for your staff

Providing your staff with workwear puts you in control of what they wear, where and when. To make the most of this benefit, you need to choose the right workwear for each situation. Here are seven useful tips to help. 

Define the requirements of each job role 

Functionality should always be your starting point. Workwear is not PPE, but it can serve a protective function. It’s therefore useful to think about what hazards your staff may face. Then think about whether there’s any way you could give them workwear that would help to protect them from it. 

Often this is very simple. For example, you may have noticed that staff who work outdoors often have workwear that includes a peaked cap. This helps protect them from the weather all year round.

If you’re choosing embroidered workwear for outdoor staff, then the weather should always be a consideration. The UK does not have a particularly extreme climate, but it does have a wide range of weather conditions. It’s also known for its habit of changing weather conditions very quickly.

Even when staff are technically based indoors, they may have to pop outdoors from time to time. They may also have to work in different environments indoors. For example, if staff work in food prep, they may have to go from hot areas to cold ones. Really assess what each staff member actually does so you have a clear idea of what is and isn’t practical for them.

Remember you can have different workwear for different times of the year

This has the most significance for outdoor staff. In the UK, it’s practically impossible to have a single set of workwear that’s suitable for year-round use. This means that most employers have to provide outdoor staff with workwear that can be layered according to the weather conditions.

Even for indoor staff, however, it can be useful to have different sets of workwear for different times of the year. This helps to ensure that your staff always have a seasonally-appropriate appearance. Updating your workwear for indoor staff doesn’t have to mean making huge (and expensive) changes. It can just mean updating small accessories like hats or scarves.

Define the business requirements

Are there any operational requirements the business requires the workwear to fulfil?  For example, do you want to use your workwear to make it easier to identify staff in certain job roles?

Then assess the broader practical requirements of the workwear. In particular, what is the usual interval between hiring a new team member and having them actually start work?  In other words, how long do you usually have to get their workwear ready for them?  Also, how long do staff members usually stay?  In other words, is it important that workwear is durable?

As a final point, think about whether or not you want your workwear to have a timeless look. For some businesses, having custom workwear that never obviously dates save them the time of having to update it. For others, it can be helpful to have workwear that effectively has a built-in expiry date. In particular, it can help to prevent former staff from using their old uniform inappropriately.

Check staff preferences

There are two key reasons for asking staff what they would like to see in their workwear. The first is that it might highlight something you missed in your initial appraisal. For example, you may have concluded that you needed to prioritise durability to get the best value for money. Your staff, however, may prefer lighter clothes even if they’re less durable.

The second is that it helps to make staff feel included and hence valued. Even once your workwear is established, it can be worth checking in with staff from time to time. Circumstances may change and you may only notice the changes if you ask.

Allocate your budget

When you’re allocating your budget, your first concern should be to make sure you can afford workwear that meets your practical requirements. After that, it’s usually advisable to prioritise quality and durability over aesthetics. Obviously, brand image is important but overall quality will be a part of that.

There are two other key reasons why it’s usually important to prioritise durability. Firstly, it shows a commitment to sustainability. This is increasingly likely to be a very important point with your customers. Secondly, it tends to work out more economical than having to replace clothing that is easily damaged.

Decide how to approach branding

First of all, you need to decide how far you want to go with branding. In other words, do you want your staff to wear a full uniform or a combination of personal clothing and workwear?  For SMEs, the latter approach tends to be the most practical. Generally, staff provide their own footwear and trousers/skirts. Businesses provide tops and sometimes hats/scarves.

Secondly, you need to decide how you’re going to approach branding. Your first option is to have it integrated into the workwear (e.g., through printing or embroidery). Your second is to add it afterwards (e.g., through patches that you sew on yourself).

Either way, you’ll need to think about the practicalities of replicating your branding. The key point to note is that the more intricate your design is, the more difficult it can be to replicate. The more difficult it is to replicate, the more you can expect your workwear to cost.

Choose between bespoke and off-the-peg

More accurately, determine how much bespoke workwear you need and/or want. Any branding created for you, by definition, is going to be bespoke. Having branded patches created is, however, generally a fairly low-risk approach to ordering bespoke items. This is because the same patches can be used in just about any situation.

There are, however, two main downsides to using branded patches. The first is that you have to fix them onto the garment(s) yourself (or have your staff do it). This creates extra work. It’s also unlikely to give the same quality of finish as having the branding integrated.

This means that most companies, even SMEs, are probably going to want to have at least some of their workwear branded at source. It generally makes sense to choose the most visible garments such as t-shirts, jackets, and hats.