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The role of clothing on attitude, purpose and perception


A uniform can symbolise the value of contribution, welcome residents and visitors and tell the story of a place, writes Pamela Jabbour.

A care worker’s uniform is often worn for 12 hours a day, through breakfast service, linen changes, shower time and medicine runs. It is the one familiar item residents look for when in need of care.

Yet how much time is put into the uniform including its design, colour and fabric? How many facilities provide their care workers the correct allocation of uniforms to get them through a long working week?

Pamela Jabbour

What we wear influences our attitude, energy, purpose and drive. Within the aged care industry, what is worn holds even more importance to not only the employees wearing the uniform, but the perception derived from residents.

Working long unconventional hours, lifting, carrying, feeding, supporting and bed to bed from breakfast to bedtime our care workers are providing critical care and support and what they wear to work is both significant and extremely symbolic.

There are many key sentiments that are projected when an employee wears their uniform each day, those being pride, culture, unification, recognition and reassurance. The need to be identifiable is vital not only to residents but also for visitors and other staff.

There is an inherent respect in a uniform and a resident’s faith is endorsed.

It is our obligation to ensure our care workers’ uniforms are designed thoughtfully while being symbolic of their importance within the facility they work. While dress code is the most important and infallible way of ensuring all staff represent the facility, service levels and brand appropriately and uniformly it must also bring members together to represent a team.

Clothing that reflects care

With this in mind there are a number of factors that need to be considered when deciding upon a uniform range. While the overall aesthetics are extremely important, combining design with the intrinsic purpose of the uniform completes the general desires for the perfect uniform range.

In my experience when it comes to uniforms for the aged care industry, it is important to understand the staff requirements. Therefore we conduct an inordinate amount of research on the roles within our aged care facilities, the work environment, the demographic of people who work in this space and what the job role entails.

From this research we understand that while practicality is a must, employees still want to feel and look good in what they wear to work. We understand that our care workers are predominately female, representing approximately 80 per cent of the workforce, vary in age, shape and size and would like to have a few style options to see them through the week.

With this information available, creating uniforms that reflect care should encompass the following:

  • tops should have an action back and be longer in length to allow for the comfortable movement
  • pants should be flexible with hidden elastic waists for bending and lifting while remaining stylish
  • fabrics need to be durable, breathable and iron free if possible, allowing a wash and wear offering
  • it is critical the fabric is comfortable on the skin while being breathable and durable to last the long days and easy to care for with little effort required for washing.

When embarking on a care worker’s journey, the importance of the moment you are given your first uniform should not be underestimated.

As a care worker, the uniform symbolises the value of contribution, it is the welcoming, familiar item residents and clients begin to recognise. Their uniform tells the story of the place of work and provides reassurance within the community.

A well thought out uniform can have dramatic impact on staff morale and the brand perception is invaluable. When our care workers wake up each day and feel great about what they are wearing to work, they develop an appreciation, value and loyalty to the brand they are proudly wearing. And they feel even more connected to their purpose to care and this passion is contagious.

Pamela Jabbour is CEO of Total Image Group.

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One Response to The role of clothing on attitude, purpose and perception

  1. Ian MacDonald September 6, 2019 at 4:14 pm #

    Infomercial only – unquestionably biased. I worked in Aged care /disability sector 14 years. Overwhelmingly funding tops the list as to why businesses struggle, and services are suspect. Go down the uniform part if you must. Having stood shoulder to shoulder with peers in very, very difficult situations where challenging (or other ) events happen, uniforms made no difference and at times were a hindrance and costly to the carer. Support workers need to be invisible. Why you ask? Its critical to normalise a situation that is the usual life of daily activity. Say you see a police person escorting someone. What does that tell you? People make judgements very quickly and where a support worker has no influence on a difficult situation who will be seen as being as being at fault in some way? The person in the uniform. Perceptions are everything when supporting a person. Purposely put support staff or carers, whatever title or label you want to use, in the public eye when they are dealing with an incident or just regular activities, a uniform has always altered appearances in that it is not natural or gives off some form of useless corporate signage for who’s benefit? Most certainly not for an aged or disabled person to maintain some dignity, some sense of self worth, some independence in their decision making or just ‘fit in.’ That need doesn’t need a uniform for that. Having a uniformed person ushering them around as sometimes has to happen is not creating the best image, never has.

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