What does it mean to Bring Yourself to Work (BYTW)? Surely, that’s something we all do every working day?
Or is it? We may bring our bodies and our minds to work, but many of us find it difficult to truly be ourselves in the workplace. Working conditions and workplace cultures vary hugely but in the majority of work settings there are rules, implicit and explicit, that we often find ourselves conforming to that can make it difficult to be our best selves, the people we aspire to be.
When thinking about whether I bring myself to work every day, I often reflect on the question “Would my friends and family fully recognise me at work and vice versa?” Some people might think “Does it really matter? I just want to turn up do my shift and go home. Work becomes more and more pressurised and now you want me to invest even more of myself in it? Aye that’ll be right!”
The concept of BYTW is not about putting more pressure on the individual to make up for organisational failings. It’s about recognising that work is part of life for those of us fortunate enough to have a job. To make workplaces healthier and jobs more fulfilling and less stressful, we all need to be part of a culture change within workplaces and our wider society.
At work, we can tend to put on our metaphorical armour to protect ourselves. We may think that standing out, or being different, might hurt our chances of being accepted or of progressing our career. But it is important to be yourself at work for many reasons. Here are some to consider:
- You’ll be happier and enjoy your work life more. This is the core reason behind BYTW. It might be difficult at first but by thinking more deeply about your own feelings and actions, the process of going to work can become less of a chore and more of a pleasure.
- Because you are entitled to feel like a human, rather than a cog in a machine
- By being yourself you can make better connections, more quickly. As humans, we normally have a pretty good BS detector and can tell when people aren’t being genuine around us. This can make it difficult to build rapport as we don’t feel comfortable around people who don’t seem to be authentic.
- You will use a lot less energy being yourself than trying to be something you’re not.
- It can help you accept the fact that you, and others, are fallible and that’s ok.
- It helps you to live and work by your values rather than someone else’s and relieves the mental distress that can be caused when not. If you find that your work and your values are at odds then the best idea is to proactively address this situation, assess your options and do what it takes to find a work role that allows you to be yourself.
- In this complicated and complex world, we need everybody’s unique skills. By not bringing yourself to work, you’re doing yourself and others a disservice.
So how do you do it? If you’ve worked in a particular way, it can be a bit confusing – even daunting – to try to act in a way that feels more you. It’s difficult to say how to go about it because only you are you and it will mean different things to each of us. You might not even know what that looks or feels like. So try experimenting. To get you started, you might want to think of ways you can be a little bit more:
- Brave – do something you’ve wanted to but haven’t felt confident enough to do
- Vulnerable – share something about yourself; if you are afraid of being judged or looking daft then make sure you are not judging others if they share something of themselves with you.
- Sensitive – act in a way you would want to be treated, but be aware that we are all different and what you might think is an okay way to act and speak might upset someone else.
- Mindful – of others and yourself. Being mindful of others and ourselves is at the heart of BYTW. We all have to work at it but it can make a huge difference to our lives and the lives of those around us.
- Caring – ask how a colleague is doing, especially when you are both mega-busy. Random Acts of Kindness make you feel good about life and others feel good about you and themselves.
- Daring – say what you are really feeling or thinking… well obviously within reason! It always helps to be diplomatic but it is important not to just go with the flow. By being willing to speak your mind you empower others to do the same.
- Assertive – ask for what you need, and look for ways you can make a positive difference in your life at work and at home.
While it is important that we bring ourselves to work everyday, we want to have a special BringYourselfToWork day on Monday 7 Sept 2015 for a few reasons:
- It can make it easier to try something new when lots of others are also doing it at the same time
- Mondays can be especially hard at work for lots of people, and
- U.Lab, a free, eight-week online experiential learning programme starts that week and we are encouraging as many people in Scotland (and the rest of the world!) to take part who wish to. U.Lab fits very much with the ethos of BYTW.
But don’t wait until 7 Sept! Try it today and share with us ways you’ve brought yourself to work by commenting below, sending us pictures or tweeting at #bringyourselftowork. Share yourself, and some inspiration, with us.
For more information on Bring Yourself to Work Week, contact Keira Oliver – Keira.Oliver@scotland.gsi.gov.uk