Here’s why we should “bring our whole selves to work”

16th May 2019

One of the most wonderful things about Frontline is that I have always been able to find support here. Everyone at Frontline has worked so hard to foster a culture of transparency, that I’ve never felt anxious about going to work when I’ve struggled with my mental health. Instead, I’ve been able to find a space where my personal concerns and fears have been heard, validated and echoed by others.

I recently read an article in the Financial Times that berated the idea of “bringing your whole self to work.” The author argued that this “fatuous phrase” has made companies “so anxious to please its workers [they are] happy to have them behave at work as they would at home.” Personally, I really don’t see the problem with that! In fact, I find the concept of not equating the office to a form of home laughable.

I’m not arguing that we should watch Netflix at our desks or walk around the office in jammies and slippers. How we behave at home, after all, depends on who is present. That said, most of us spend a huge proportion of our time at work. I interact more with my co-workers than I do with most other people in my life and the anxieties and concerns I experience day to day don’t disappear the moment I set foot in the office. I talk to my colleagues, I eat with them, I laugh with them and yes, when things have been particularly tough, I have even cried with them.

Several studies have shown that healthy and happy employees typically make for productive employees and the maths behind this makes sense, not just in terms of productivity, but also because it’s right. If you’ve ever had to work while feeling physically or emotionally unwell, you know it’s not when you perform your best. If you’ve ever worked for an employer that expects this, odds are it’s made you feel even worse.

Luckily I work for a charity that takes its employees’ mental health and wellbeing seriously. Frontline offers frequent workshops and training opportunities on mental health awareness, unconscious bias, intersectionality and more. I have been a member of Frontline’s wellbeing action group, as well as an ‘action learning set’ who come together and talk about problems we have at work and coach each other through them. At Frontline, employees can develop all parts of themselves, learn to more keenly consider other people’s perspectives and provide even better support to those around them. I feel proud that others feel safe enough to share their whole selves with me at work.

I know work will never be a true home and that the happiest people don’t live to work. That said, if there’s one thing my two years at Frontline have taught me, it is that feeling at home at work and seeing my colleagues as a family of sorts are what make me feel proud of my contributions to the charity and work as hard as I do. If that means Frontline is anxious to please its workers, then I’d suggest other organisations follow suit.