Kaye Savage, HR and Governance Lead at Pause reflects on bringing your whole self to work… even when we can’t go to the office.
I drafted a blog two weeks ago, ready for Pause to show our support for My Whole Self, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England’s new campaign for culture change in the workplace.
The day is here, and it feels like a different world – we’re not bringing our physical selves to the office anymore, the whole Pause national team is now working from home, and we’re all facing an unprecedented and uncertain global situation…
This is what I wrote then:
“We’re happy to support #MyWholeSelf, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England’s new campaign for culture change in the workplace, empowering people to bring their whole self to work.
At first glance, it feels like this campaign doesn’t really apply to Pause. We’re not a stuffy, corporate organisation, where the only way to express individuality is through an interestingly patterned tie or some colourful socks.
We don’t expect people to check their personalities at the door. Our lunchtime chats cover a wide range of topics, from top five favourite vegetables to some truly fascinating dreams. As an adoptive mum, I am well supported here. People regularly check in when something work related might have an impact on me personally, and I know that’s true for colleagues dealing with other issues.
At the same time, no one is forced to share things they don’t want to. Lots of people keep boundaries between who they are at home, and what they choose to bring to work.
However, we have been talking a lot recently about how we properly recognise individual’s contributions, how we ensure our working environments actually work for everyone, and, inspired by another campaign, #charitysowhite, we are also looking at our diversity.
Our staff team is predominantly made up of white, middle class women. Does this stop any of our colleagues from bringing their whole selves to work? Are there parts of their personal lives that people would like to share, but feel unable to do so? Does our sense of humour and sarcasm make it harder for some colleagues to genuinely engage?
We want to be sure that no one is keeping a part of themselves back from work involuntarily, that no one feels they have to change the way they talk or dress to be accepted at work, and that no one feels isolated by our workplace culture.
So that’s our challenge, and that’s what we’ll be talking about this week.
We need to remove systemic, organisational barriers which stop colleagues being themselves. We need to make sure our culture is open to other perspectives, and is genuinely welcoming to everyone – and that everyone is fully able to bring as much of themselves to work as they want. Even if that’s just a funky sock.”
This is clearly no longer all we’ll be talking about this week! It’s been superseded by discussion of how the Coronavirus pandemic and the associated changes in our lives are affecting us. We’re acknowledging our levels of anxiety. As an organisation, we’re ensuring that everyone has what they need to work at home, and being flexible about what people need to take care of themselves, their families and their communities.
We’re also trying to make sure our personalities and personal interactions aren’t lost in working remotely. We’re coming up with fun things to engage everyone – on our Teams app, we’ve set up drop in chats every lunch time and a weekly quiz. Other suggestions so far include Through the Keyhole style videos of our homes and a revolving Desert Island Discs. Working remotely, even on day one, I’ve learned more about my colleagues home lives than I knew before. I’ve also met some lovely pets.
It may be that through not being able to bring our physical selves to work at all, we’ll learn how to engage each other in a different way, and all get to know each other a little better…
Kaye Savage, HR and Governance Lead at Pause.
My Whole Self is a new campaign from Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England. Find out more here.
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