Spring has already come and gone in Arizona. It maybe lasted a couple of weeks — if that. Time to prepare for the heat of summer and questions surrounding what defines an acceptable office dress code during the triple-digit heat of Arizona’s summer.

For those of us that live and work in the triple digits temps, let’s first give a big thank you for air conditioning! We can survive the desert heat because of our advanced cooling technology.

But even then, the commute to and from work can be stiflingly warm. People will do anything to stay comfortable during the summer months, including wearing questionable work attire.

And the dress code isn’t just an issue that affects trendy start-up companies. This is something that affects law firms, call centers, ad agencies, you name it. We’re all just trying to survive the triple digits of May through September in Arizona.  

So how do you determine what’s “work appropriate?” Especially when you can relate to the rest of your colleagues because you just want to wear shorts and a tank top at the office too.

But is that what’s best for your company culture? How can you maintain professionalism, while giving some slack for the ridiculous temperatures that we all have to endure?

We decided to ask a few business leaders in the Valley about their approach to dress code enforcement in the summer months.

As the Head of Talent at Freedom Financial Network, Heather Marcom, said her leadership team has considered some helpful ways to problem solve this issue.

“One way to beat the heat in Arizona and still maintain a professional work environment is to allow a more business casual workplace,” shared Marcom. “Freedom allows our teammates to dress more casually with jeans twice a week, but that doesn’t mean reverting back to a strictly conservative dress code on all other days. We see people come into work with lightweight pants, short-sleeved polo shirts and even smart, dress shorts for women. None of our roles is customer facing which helps, but we still want to maintain a professional workplace.”

Marcom also shared that the new Tempe offices of Freedom Financial Network have an on-site café and Starbucks, so employees can avoid the heat and get their meals and iced coffees without even having to leave the building.

Meanwhile out in Gilbert, Rocket Media, a digital marketing agency that specializes home services, provides an extremely flexible dress code to its team members. With under 30 employees and not a whole lot of client-facing meetings, you’ll walk into Rocket Media’s offices and see flip-flops and athleisure worn by most employees. Aaron Hofferth, Strategic Operations Manager, explained that regardless of your industry, it’s important for every HR department to have a handbook that clearly outlines with examples, what employees can wear in the workplace. Hofferth further offered some apparel suggestions that he has found helpful for their team members.

“Regardless of gender, a good start is breathable materials (such as linen, silk, viscose/rayon, and light cotton), looser fits, light-colored clothing, and staying away from layers,” says Hofferth. “For men, short sleeve polos and summer-weight dress shirts are good options, and if you absolutely have to dress it up, non-lined suit coats are also typically available. For pants, chinos tend to come in a variety of material types. For women, cap sleeve knee-length dresses/skirts (particularly those with an A-line cut that don’t hug your chest and waist), non-revealing sleeveless button-up collared tops, and open-toed flats or thin-strapped heels.”

Spear Education took it even further and created an internal app for their employees. After receiving feedback from staff members through OfficeVibe, an anonymous survey tool, Spear decided to invest in technology that will communicate dress code adjustments on a daily basis.

As Talent Acquisition Manager, Beth Gross, said this decision has helped maintain the level of professionalism that Spear’s clients expect, while ensuring that employees feel heard. “Though we can’t move to 100% business casual because we have our clients here on campus for seminars and workshops, we were able to find some flexibility within our existing policy. The new app that we created, allows us to adjust the dress code daily and communicate quickly and effectively. Our policy has clear parameters, but still allows our workforce to have as much flexibility as possible for that specific day.”


Denise Gredler is CEO and founder of BestCompaniesAZ. BestCompaniesAZ is a marketing firm that specializes in employer branding. For nearly 20 years, Denise Gredler and her team have served award-winning companies, connecting top talent with the top employers in the state of Arizona.