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Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Inc., which employs about 17,000 people, announced earlier this month it would allow office workers to come to work in jeans and sneakers. Factory workers in the company will still be required to wear uniforms and sales staff will still be expected to don business suits as per regulations in the existing dress code but, for everyone else (about 3,700 workers), the choice of clothing is optional — or, optional up to a point. Polo shirts are OK and women are able to wear sleeveless tops, but the new regulations prohibit shorts, T-shirts, sandals or ripped jeans. In fact, the company released photographic examples of what it calls sawayaka (refreshing) style, a play on the beverage maker’s advertising catch copy, which still incorporates suit jackets.

The purpose, according to an article that was published in the Asahi Shimbun, is to encourage individuality, which will in turn increase communication among employees and boost productivity. In other words, there’s sound business logic behind the relaxation of rules, which, if you think about it, isn’t much of a change. There are still rules, they’re just different from the previous ones.

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