US office workers continue to trade in their suits for casual businesswear - and say their productivity and on-the-job morale are better for it.

The new poll of 1,000 office workers, commissioned by the Dockers and Slates brands, was designed to gauge attitudes and behaviours about business attire and is probably the most comprehensive study on the subject to date.

The findings of the 2001 National Businesswear Survey suggest a widespread movement to casual businesswear attire across all segments and, for the first time in six years, establishes a strong link between casual businesswear and employee productivity and morale. 

Overall, 66 per cent of those surveyed say they dress casually for work every day. That figure is up from 53 per cent in 1997. More than 80 per cent say they wear casual businesswear at least one day a week.

Most employees see the shift as good for them and their employers. Sixty per cent of those polled say casual business dress increases their productivity and 58 percent say it improves on-the-job morale.

According to Maureen Griffin, consumer marketing director for the Dockers and Slates brands: "This suggests that US workers not only prefer the option to dress in casual business attire, they see it as enhancing their performance. It also points to the emergence of corporate dress policy as a strategic business tool.

"It is significant that even companies with dressier policies are allowing employees to incorporate more personal and casual styles into their business wardrobes," she continued. "We see this as part of the 'one-wardrobe' trend: the growing preference for work attire that is casual, comfortable and versatile enough to inspire employee creativity, yet sharp and professional enough for important business meetings and after-work socialising."