The Benefits of Bringing Your Whole Self to Work

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In the words of Louis Armstrong, we've been trained to "leave our worries on the doorstep," to avoid mixing the different responsibilities of work and life. However, life isn't something your employees can simply turn off once they get to the office, and research shows that - when handled responsibly - blurring the lines between the two and bringing the "whole self" to work can benefit everyone involved.

Why does bringing your whole self matter?

As an employer, you probably only see your employees in the office or at work-related events, so it can be hard to imagine their lives outside of work. However, their jobs - while important - are only part of their overall lives. Outside of work, they might be trying to balance a wide variety of things, from children and their care and activities to health-related issues and finances, not to mention their hobbies and other interests. Checking life at the door saddles your employees with unhealthy amounts of stress.

How can you help?

You can lead the charge by encouraging employees to bring their whole selves to work and fostering a sense of mutual trust.

Encourage open communication among managers and their employees. Set an example by talking about your own family, pets, hobbies, and interests. Ask what your employees did over the weekend. Taking an interest in their lives will show them that it's okay to talk about their time outside of work - it will ease their stress and allow them to be themselves (did you know over half of employees cover up a part of their identities at work to fit in?).

If you haven't already, consider implementing a flexible schedule. This can be helpful for a variety of reasons, like doctor's appointments, children's sporting events and child care, house repairs, and any unexpected events. Let's say an employee's husband gets stuck in traffic and is unable to pick up his daughter before the child care center is going to close. Leaving life's responsibilities at the door would cause this employee to panic, while the freedom to bring her whole self to work would allow her to explain the situation to her manager and leave work a little bit early to pick up her daughter.

How will you and your employees benefit?

Employees who have the opportunity to bring their whole selves to work will reap the benefits - and so will you.

Employees will be more engaged. When an employee has the freedom to send a quick text to his spouse as a reminder to pick up dinner on the way home or make a quick phone call about who's going to pick up their daughter, he'll be less distracted.

With employee engagement comes higher productivity. And when employees are able to get more done, it contributes to your bottom line.

You'll teach responsibility and accountability. Employees who can bring their whole selves to work each day learn how to balance their time to ensure they get everything done, but are also able to tend to non-work-related issues that arise.

Diversity will shine through. When you push your employees to be themselves, you're motivating them to not only celebrate their differences, but to find support from or collaborate with like-minded people or those going through similar experiences.

Employee happiness will skyrocket. When employees' careers cause them to take on personas that don't reflect their true personalities, nobody wins. Encourage them to let their true colors shine through - they'll be happier when they don't have to pretend to be people they're not.

Retention rates will rise. When employees are happier, they're more likely to stay put and speak highly of your organization - what increases retention will also work as a recruitment tool.

When employees are comfortable in their own skin and are encouraged to bring everything with them to work, instead of putting on their "work faces" at the door and dropping everything else, you'll have a happier, more productive workforce.
Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
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