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DRPR Drumbeat

Current Trend: Business is becoming less formal

It's certainly not an overnight trend (more like ten years) but many business practices and communication have gradually become less formal.

This ranges from everything to the increasing use of first names only, to the way business people dress.

Old versus New
There are of course exceptions and I'm sure those working in the legal industry are still wearing their suits and ties and won't be changing anytime soon.

In the public relations industry the dress code has certainly relaxed with very few men wearing suits and ties, except on special occasions, and women wearing less formal attire. At a large PR agency about 20 years ago they decreed that women must wear skirts to work and excluded pants altogether. That rule would certainly not wash now.

In many other industries the dress code is even more relaxed with trendy street wear taking over from 'smart casual' or traditional attire.

But it's not just the dress code that's relaxed. Even ten years ago it was not unusual for people to refer to their boss as 'Mr So and So'. Now it seems that first names are all the rage and often business people introduce themselves with first names only.

Overall the language of business has also become less formal. This is partly due to the prevalence of email communication but also a reflection of the relaxed nature of business.

On the whole this is a good trend because it means that our language is more straightforward and written in good 'plain English'. Hopefully this leads to better comprehension and from a professional communication perspective that is a good thing.

However, it also means that people become a bit too familiar when perhaps a more formal approach could be more appropriate. For example, if you are dealing with a customer complaint, for example a written formal letter from an older customer, it would be inappropriate to email back in a very chatty style because it could cause offence - it's about picking the appropriate tone for each individual situation.

The unwritten code of business norms will continue to become less formal over time. The trick is to keep up with the trend.

By Nicola Rutzou | @nicolar