Business Update with Mark Lacter

Are Casual Fridays dead?

We used to make a big deal out of Casual Fridays at work.  But now that we're entering the dog days of summer, is anyone dressing up?

Mark Austin Thomas: Business analyst Mark Lacter, dare I ask what you're wearing?

Mark Lacter: This is radio for a reason, Mark!  And certainly, don't ask that question at the L.A. Daily Journal newspaper, which recently issued a memo that laid down the law on what's not considered appropriate attire.  As in, no jeans, no sneakers (except for messengers), no sandals or flip-flops, no halter tops, no spaghetti straps, no tee-shirts.  Also, no shorts, leggings, or exercise pants.  And, if you don't measure up, you may be sent home to change clothes - without pay for the time you've missed.  Now, to be fair, the Daily Journal is a legal newspaper, and law firms - along with the courts - remain kind of a bastion for traditional business attire.

Thomas: And that means jackets and ties for men...?

Lacter: ...and skirt suits and business dresses for women.  It's the same deal for many offices in New York and Chicago.  Matter of fact, dressing down is still not especially popular in many parts of the country, according to a new survey I came across.  More than half of the respondents say it suggests an employee doesn't have respect for the workplace.  In other words, not a team player.

Thomas: But L.A. has this huge creative community where jeans and tee-shirts are almost part of the uniform.

Lacter: Yeah, the only people wearing suits at these places are the high-level executives who are actually called "suits."  This has been true in Hollywood for years, but now you're seeing it with the growth of tech companies.  Imagine how confusing it must be for an attorney who wears the standard business uniform, and who has one of these companies as his client.  And, maybe that's the point - there is no single workplace culture, even within the companies themselves.

Thomas: Is being comfortable just not on the radar at these places?

Lacter: Well, not to pick on the Daily Journal, but so what if someone who is stuck in front of a computer all day wants to be a little more comfortable in jeans?  Will the world as we know it come to a halt?  You know, the workplace is far different than it was even 10 years ago.  People are doing their jobs in all sorts of ways, whether it's working from home, or as independent contractors.  And, this is really all about common sense - so, maybe it's time the stick-in the-muds realized as much.

Thomas: Attire aside, how is the workplace itself changing?

Lacter: Some of those downtown law firms have been cutting back, which means that they don't need as much space.  Not every attorney needs a giant office.  Same with the downtown accounting firms - when folks do go to work, the office may include a fancy kitchen, a ping pong table, workstations that double as treadmills, a place to do yoga or even to take a nap.

Thomas: All this is supposed to boost productivity...

Lacter: ...which it probably does, though you do have to wonder whether having a yoga room really enhances output, or is just a way of keeping employees from not taking a job somewhere else.  My favorite perk, and I say that facetiously, is the office kegerator, which not only seems like a dumb idea, but a great way for a company to get sued if somebody has one too many.

Thomas: Quickly Mark, any news in the dispute between CBS and Time Warner Cable?

Lacter: Not good news.  Time Warner Cable offered what it said were two possible solutions to the standoff, but CBS has came back and called it a sham.  Time Warner Cable subscribers have been without CBS programming since Friday, which is already going on longer than analysts had first expected.  The fight is over re-transmission fees - the amount of money that a programmer receives from a distributor- in this case, Time Warner Cable.  CBS apparently wants a big increase, and Time Warner Cable doesn't want to pay.

Mark Lacter is a contributing writer for Los Angeles Magazine and writes the business blog at LA Observed.com.


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