Studies have found that having art in the workplace can be overwhelmingly positive. Around 78% of people say that it reduces stress, 64% say it increases creativity, and 77% say it encourages personal expression of opinions. Any forward-thinking business will likely want to see these values in their workforce. But even though body tattoos are often seen as an expressive decoration, they’re not regarded with the same respect as the art that’s hung on the walls. At a time when many businesses are struggling to retain employees, some body art enthusiasts say companies that adopt a more lenient approach to tattoos at work will find their employees will be more likely to remain loyal. But will more traditional businesses even consider it?
Although it’s conventional wisdom to dress for the job you want, 47% of senior managers said their employees dress “too casually” at work. But body modifications may be an even worse offense than a sloppy wardrobe. Depending on the industry and specific organization, tattoos are still very much taboo in many circles. That’s in spite of the fact that tattoos are becoming even more popular with each passing year. In fact, a 2016 survey conducted by The Harris Poll found that 47% of Millennials and 36% of Gen Xers said they had at least one tattoo. But just because they’re more ubiquitous doesn’t mean they’re necessarily gaining more acceptance. A business.com article reported that 42% of people think visible tattoos have no place at work.
However, many of the nation’s top corporations don’t agree. Google, Amazon, and Ticketmaster are among the top employers who don’t care whether employees have tattoos, according to CBS News. Starbucks started allowing its employees to freely display their tattoos at work, which baristas say has improved both company culture and branding.
Even some of those in human resources recognize the need for change in this area. One member of the Society for Human Resource Management noted in a discussion forum, “As you look to hire Millennials and the next generations, I think these policies [banning the display of body art] are going to quickly become outdated. We certainly removed them from our handbook.”
Still, as a general rule, many experts advise applicants to cover up their body modifications when interviewing for a new position, especially when the values and overall feel of a company indicate that tattoos and piercings may not be welcome. But others say to exercise caution in this regard, especially if you plan to reveal them once you’ve been hired. This has the potential to make an employer feel “duped,” says one HR person.
But if an employer wants to enforce a steadfast rule of no body modification, it’s their responsibility to tell applicants, says another HR professional.
“We need to share the policies in order for candidates and employees to know the policies … Considering the popularity of tattoos [and other body art], it would be wise to address this with candidates during the interview process, across the board, and especially with [those occupying] a visible role.”
Ultimately, most tattooed employees won’t be happy working at a company that doesn’t value their need to artistically express themselves through body art. But just because an employee has a tattoo or two doesn’t mean that they aren’t qualified or aren’t a good fit for a given organization. The debate still continues, but if employers want to attract forward-thinking employees, they may need to think more outside the box themselves. And it may behoove highly driven creatives to think twice before getting any kind of tattoo that could jeopardize their future.