What do you consider a "Whole Self" workplace?

I often see “bringing your whole self” to work. But how does this actually look? Has anyone actually instituted this as a program at their workplace? How did it work?

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I actually enjoy having two worlds. I love wearing a suit and I like having a birthday suit. The fact that home and work expect different is a bonus for me!


Bringing your “whole self” to work for means being highly engaged in the work you are doing. When that happens you see a number of other things emerge, like ownership, commitment, empowerment, and higher productivity to name but a few.

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For me this means feeling a sense of belonging, to the extent that you feel like you will be accepted for who you really are (or who you want to be). No need to pretend to be something you’re not; no barriers to sharing what’s on your mind or how you’re feeling, even if these things fall beyond the scope of ordinary company business.


In my current state, I tend to agree with BatmanRay. I feel like when I open the door to the office in the morning, I’m putting on a suit of armor, and when I close the door to my house at night, I’m dropping that suit (who knows what happens during my commute). I don’t think it’s possible for me to bring my whole self to work, and I’m not sure if I want to. I have a whole world of fears, anxieties, hopes/dreams, trauma, and selfishness that I can’t “wholly” integrate into my work world.

So when I think about a “Whole Self” workplace, my hope is to have a place where others and myself recognize that I and others have this whole world within us that may need space - that we need to be able to step away, support to take a break or not speak up as much, so we don’t feel like this world within us isn’t allowed to be considered during the hours of 9-5.


Great question and pleased to chime in with 2 thoughts:

  1. For the inverse, one could ask: are you subordinating a part of yourself each and every day at work? And if so, is this playing or contributing to sapping your working spirit, curbing your creativity, or inhibiting you from getting on with your best work

  2. To Peter’s point above. Are you being recognised for your current Self or your ‘potential’ self. ie Does your boss/manager lead in a way to give you the agency to be yourself in getting your work done - doing the right thing vs. doing it right. And to those who are leading/managing others are you allowing yourself and peers to challenge your current self to be better.

From my experience, simply asking yourself and others how can I help you do your best work (like really) - leads to whether your ‘whole self’ (emotional baggage, fallibility, unique personality) is right for the work and culture and context - or if ‘part of your self’ (leaving certain things at home to Batman Ray and David’s comments) is the right way to go.

The answer, I guess - as I write this, is it depends. :slight_smile:

I worked in Chicago radio for many years before taking a role at an insurance giant. I like that in our new workspaces we can dress for our day and I can take advantage of the countless concert t-shirts I collected in my former career. I like that I can be who I am, funny (I like to think so), passionate and outspoken, willing to take risks, without worrying that someone is about to tell me “no.” I like that I can share my interests in movies and storytelling with others around me, and that I love skulls (I’m easy to buy for that way…skull scarves, stickers, patterned notebooks, etc.).

I like that we encourage people to care and show gratitude toward one another. :blush:

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I find this such an interesting discussion topic. If we encourage people to bring their whole selves to work - if that includes minority held opinions (in the context of the people at a particular org), how do those people feel safe to express those and how do the majority then act towards them as a result of sharing their whole selves.
What if some peoples beliefs infringe on what other people consider their rights or beliefs. For example, pro life or pro choice. I think I struggle with the definition of ‘whole’. Different people will draw different lines with that.