workplace productivity

If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit, Try a Slipper on for Size

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I’ve often heard that the best way to determine if someone is well dressed, take a look at the person’s shoes. Having sat in on countless interviews, I can understand why. I’ve had people come in (usually kids just out of school) wearing a well-tailored outfit only to have it ruined by a pair of shoes that were either beat up or way to casual. Sorry, but the only person I know who can get away with the gym shoes and a suit look is David Tennant’s Doctor Who, and that’s only because he’s a Time Lord played by a Scott (I wouldn’t be surprised if the first aliens to land on Earth were wearing kilts).

I’ve also seen women at work in heels that could poke your eyes out. While some may think they look more attractive, and some of the piggish bosses longing for the Madmen days may prefer them, all I can think of is, why the hell would you torture your feet by wearing something even the Spanish Inquisition wouldn’t use to torture their victims? High heels should be saved for the clubs, and only then if you don’t have to step out onto an icy sidewalk afterwards.

If you’ve been reading me for any length of time, you know that I don’t think that how you dress, shoes included, have a tangible impact on job performance. Like it or not, though, we live in world where appearance does matter, and someone who doesn’t conform to the proper dress for the appropriate occasion is saying that they don’t know what is appropriate, or don’t care. Either way, it’s not a good sign.

Not that I’m perfect when it comes to shoes. My wife has often said that I should invest in a couple of pairs of really nice dress shoes. She’s probably right. Not only would they look nicer, but they’d hold up better. But when I look at the price tags, I just can’t bring myself to spend the equivalent of a car payment on a pair of shoes, especially when they’ll still get trashed as I trudge through the snow and splash through puddles on my way into the office. I suppose I could wear galoshes, but I’m not that old.

A solution to all this comes from that fountain of so many great ideas – elementary school. Researchers from Bournemouth University in the UK found that when grade schoolers were allowed to wear slippers, it had positive effects on the classroom. The students at East Midland Primary School, where the study was conducted, tended to be more productive, better behaved and even got better grades when they were allowed to trade in their sneakers for slippers when they entered the building. It even saved on maintenance because there were fewer floor scuffs and less wear and tear on the carpeting.

The theory behind the findings is that wearing slippers helps make the classroom a more homey environment. This increases students’ comfort level, so they can focus on learning.

So why not bring this same practice to the workplace? Sure, we’re adults, not kids, but what work place couldn’t benefit from higher productivity and better behavior. I for one would love to wear slippers to work, especially on those cold winter mornings when my shoes are soaked through and my feet are ice-cold.

The only reason I can see not to is the idea that they are just not appropriate for work. I would be the first to admit that I’d have to overcome some of my own prejudices the first time someone showed up in the office in a pair of soft soled moccasins or something that looked like fuzzy blue monsters were devouring an interviewee’s feet. Still, fashions change. Someone used to be considered not fully dressed without a hat, spats used to be all the rage. Not t=so recently, a woman couldn’t step foot in a professional environment wearing open toed shoes, and a skirt without panty hose? Forget it.

Times change. slippers, though, they’re forever.

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