Memorial Day in the US signals that summer in the northern hemisphere is just beginning. We tend to associate summer time with kicking back just a bit and enjoying longer daylight, sunshine and outdoor activities.
What if we also chose summer to be a time when we relax our business persona’s a bit and bring more of our true selves to work?
I’m not talking about a “let it all hang out” kind of relax, but rather a purposeful one. The purpose could be to increase your contribution, your satisfaction, and/or your enjoyment. After all, why shouldn’t we have more fun at work at a time of year when we often have more fun outside of work?
In the industrial age we created an artificial separation between work and life. Work was no longer determined by what your home community needed from you in order for the community to function (e.g., blacksmith, farmer, baker, etc.). It became about exchanging our time for money outside of the place we lived. Work became impersonal. Employees were not seen as human beings, but rather as cogs in the machinery of mass production.
Of course it was also the beginning of a much better life for many. So I am not suggesting it was all bad. It was simply part of our evolutionary path. It served us and got us here. Yet, as is often the case in evolution, the next generation is often left with vestiges that are no longer useful or needed in the current time. Humans still have an appendix that serves no function and it often has to be removed before it causes us harm!
In today’s workplace I think those vestiges take the form of beliefs that once served us, but are now in the way of progress. When people are paid for machine-like tasks, many of which could ultimately be done by machines, their feelings, hopes and dreams, and even their life circumstances don’t matter to the functioning of the machine or measures of success. In fact your “personal life” could be an impediment to successful functioning of a business designed to run like a machine.
Now that the nature of work and of jobs has changed substantially and continues to change, success is no longer a simple efficiency equation.
Most people are no longer filling jobs that amount to clearly defined cogs in the wheel of production and predictable progress. Therefore. they can no longer be treated like machines. That is if we want to tap the full potential of our organizations anway.
As individuals. to be effective in today’s world requires that we bring our whole selves to the workplace – our passion, our ownership, and the fullness of our unique life experience to fuel innovation. Many still have a long way to go in this regard.
It is common for people to display aspects of their “personal” life such as pictures of their family in their work space. However, I would venture to say this is the artificial limit for many people when it comes to bringing their whole self to work.
I do not believe this is because people don’t want to be whole, but rather that the cultural norms of modern business retains an underlying context that “business is not personal”.
Yet if businesses want more from people they also have to continue to expand their beliefs and practices to embrace the whole person when they choose to show up. And if we as individuals want more passionate and fulfilling lives we have to be willing to examine and change what we bring to the workplace.
An example of how some organizations have attempted to make work more personal is to have special days such as “bring your kids to work day”. I often ask my clients do they bring themselves – their best self – to work? The majority of the responses I continue to get to this question is an indication that we still have a lot of work to do. In 2004 a few coaches banded together to initiate an actual “bring YourSELF to Work Day”. They even created website dedicated to the idea and designated a specific day. Although it looks like they stopped in 2008, there are some great ideas on the site www.bringyourselftowork.com.
Of course it will take a lot more than a day a year to cause the kind of change we need to fuel today’s workplace and our economy. It is, however, a great place to start on the way to making the idea of bringing your self to work the “new normal” in the workplaces of tomorrow.
What about you? Do you bring your whole self, the best of you, to work every day?
If you don’t here is a challenge for you: Designate a day within the next month to be a Bring Your Self to Work Day. Either find a way to do it for yourself or include others and make it an event. And don’t forget to share what your “Bring Your Best Self to Work Day” looked like and what you discovered in the process.
And what about your organization? Do the people who lead you encourage you and support you to bring the best of you, the multi-dimentional nature of you, to work? As a leader, how do you support and encourage others to bring their whole self to the work they do?