Hewlett-Packard has faced its share of corporate adversity in recent years, from disastrous acquisitions (data-analytics provider Autonomy, later written down to the tune of $8.8 billion) to doomed mobile-device lines (webOS, we hardly knew ye). That sort of tumult would weaken the collective morale at any firm, but HP has a plan to bring back a sense of belonging and pride: It’s going to force engineers to dress in business casual. That means shirts with collars, and no worn-out jeans or shorts.
“There are customers around, and HP doesn’t want them to think riffraff work here,” an anonymous source from within the company told The Register, which was the first to report the news. “So HP is asking its R&D engineers to dress smartly. Apparently dressing well improves the holistic ambiance of a brain struggling with esoteric things like coding. That in turn improves the quality of the software products that it delivers.”
There’s just one issue with that logic: At lots of tech firms, the dress code is relaxed, to say the least. While some outside of tech might take issue with the hoodies, t-shirts, flip-flops, and jeans that constitute the stereotypical developer or engineer uniform, you can’t argue with the results those tech pros produce, in terms of their software’s quality and ubiquity. Will requiring engineers to trade their joke t-shirts and cargo shorts for khakis and button-downs inspire a wholesale elevation in their coding game?
To be fair, HP isn’t just concerned about coding quality or morale; according to The Register’s sources, it’s also worried that visitors walking through the company offices could get the wrong idea about the employees’ professionalism, if everybody seems messily dressed. Considering the company is about to split into two separate entities, once of which that will be focused exclusively on the enterprise, those concerns are perhaps not misplaced. But HP’s tech pros may still resent having to show up in preppy gear.