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Employees spend to improve image at work


According to research by, two-thirds of employees think that image is getting more important to their careers, and they are spending accordingly.

People already spend nearly a fifth of their own salary on looking good at work, according to the survey, and a far higher proportion of their take-home pay. Someone on the UK average salary of £23,000 spends £3,214 a year out of their own pocket on an entire catalogue of work-related expenditure.

This ‘cost of work’ includes a whole range of items. The study covered money spent improving appearance with the right suits, shirts, shoes and haircuts, travelling to work on time, networking with colleagues or clients and even buying the latest electronic accessory.

Behind travelling to and from work, the largest work-related cost is buying suits (£442 a year) followed by networking with work colleagues (£364 a year). Shirts and shoes alone cost the average worker over £500 a year.

Men spend nearly a fifth more than women on work-related items, perhaps reflecting higher salaries for male workers, though there are differences between what men and women feel is more important to their image at work. Women spend more than their male colleagues on new shoes and haircuts whereas men spend more on everything else.

The survey shows that low-earners feel the cost of work considerably more than high-earners. Those earning less than £15,000 a year are spending almost a fifth of their gross salary on work while those earning £60,000 – £100,000 are spending less than a tenth. Interestingly, administrative staff and PAs spend £18 a year more than Company Directors on haircuts.

The average ‘Cost of Work’ was found by using the following formula:
Annual Cost of work = (average spent on [shirts (£226), suits (£442), shoes (£276), haircuts (£182), diaries / stationery (£58), electronic accessories (£322), travel (£984), client entertaining (£114), networking (£364), miscellaneous items (£246)] in past six months) x 2

Average salary is taken from Government Labour Market Statistics, New Earnings Survey, 2001. Actual UK average salary is £23,607 p.a.

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