Uniforms are a popular "fringe benefit"

In what appears to be a popular and ongoing trend, organizations as diverse as city maintenance departments and exotic island resorts have been adding employee uniforms to their company fringe benefit packages in order to boost morale and, in turn, their productivity levels. Evidence that employers are turning to uniforms as a fringe benefit—or perhaps more accurately, a “mutual benefit”— was revealed in a study conducted by the Uniform Textile and Service Association (UTSA), which showed that upwards of 33 million workers currently wear uniforms on the job and their ranks are growing by approximately 1.2 million people each year.

Employee uniforms have traditionally been viewed by many as a functional necessity—similar to any other tool needed to get a job done. However, uniforms are now emerging as a true benefit for employers seeking more affordable ways to attract, retain, and motivate employees.

“Generally speaking, uniforms often make positive contributions to worker attitudes because of the ‘team like’ sense of belonging they create,” notes Robert Isaacson, director of marketing for UniFirst Corporation, a supplier of uniforms and work apparel programs throughout the U.S. and Canada.

“On a more practical level, a managed uniform program—which is typically rental in nature—means organizations give their employees a form of ‘pay raise,’ because employers assume the financial responsibility for supplying and maintaining the freshly cleaned clothing their employees wear to work each day. Employees save on upfront uniform investments, home laundering costs, and, of course, the ongoing needs to purchase replacement clothing as work apparel becomes damaged or worn out. Add in the fact that uniforms can enhance a worker’s professional stature and sense of self-worth, and you have a powerful combination of factors that can cause morale to head in only one direction…upwards.”

A heightened sense of morale is obvious among the 170 public works employees who change into rented uniforms on their arrival to work each day in Wheeling, West Virginia, says Asst. City Manager Rita Coyne. Why? “They don’t have to take those dirty things home,” she says of work clothing that routinely becomes heavily soiled with grease and grime.

“The fact that organizations are instituting managed uniform programs as a fringe benefit reflects that they have a winning attitude that reaches far beyond the walls of their facilities,” says UniFirst’s Isaacson. “That’s because organizations that provide rented workwear for their employees take greater control of their overall business image; they take advantage of the ‘walking advertisements’ personalized uniforms provide; and they leverage their uniform programs so their enterprises repeatedly position themselves as ‘front of mind’ business options among customers, prospects, and the public at large.”