Should You Bring Your Whole Self to Work?

UPDATED: March 17, 2024
PUBLISHED: March 17, 2024
2 female colleagues who bring their whole selves to work laughing together

Bringing your “whole self” to work isn’t a new concept. Its origin dates back over 30 years as a means to improve employee engagement. The hope was that workers would begin to see their place of employment as more than a job where they clock in and out without any real ties or loyalty to the organization.

At the time, it was a novel idea, but bringing your whole self to work is a concept that’s still prevalent today. You can see elements of it in the move toward a greater work-life balance, as well as its offshoot: work-life integration. 

Though some will question whether you should bring your whole self to work, it’s hard to deny that the concept has legs. 

Should you be your authentic self at work?

Engagement is one of the benefits of bringing your whole self to work. When you feel comfortable enough to be yourself, it’s only natural for your investment in a role, if not a company, to grow. Bringing your personal and professional aspects closer together isn’t always easy, of course. You’re putting yourself in a vulnerable position. Still, it can be liberating and lead to stronger connections with your colleagues, improve the overall dynamics in the workplace and even translate into greater job satisfaction.

This direction can also improve your productivity and creativity—not to mention that of the collective workforce. You’re more willing to bring ideas, insights and experiences to the table. Others will likely do the same—and that cross-pollination of perspectives can serve as the foundation of a more innovative organizational culture. Suddenly, problem-solving becomes second nature within the ranks, which could result in advancement that benefits society at large. 

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Besides, being “real” in the workplace can help nurture a more proactive attitude, not only in the workplace, but also in your personal life. You’re ready to engage in discussions actively, take the helm of projects if given the chance and own whatever is thrown your way. As the workday ends, you leave feeling like you’ve added value. That, in and of itself, can significantly impact your health, wellness and happiness outside of work. 

How to bring your whole self to work

Being your authentic self in the workplace does come with obstacles. Many people have questions about what that actually means. If they understand the concept, it can take time to arrive at strategies for how exactly to do it. As with anything involving a career, the first order of business is to decide whether you’re comfortable. Are you ready to abandon your work persona? Are you prepared to share more of yourself with those you interact with from 9 to 5? 

If you’re ready to make the leap to bringing your whole self to work, a few approaches can help make the process a bit easier. Here are some of the most effective and beneficial: 

1. Accept the you that is you

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to accept the you that is you. It permits you to drop the façade you bring to work and enter the day more sincerely. This acceptance will take some self-reflection on your part, as you’ll want to better understand your values, talents and areas where you may need modest improvement. Introspection can uncover your individuality, which is vital to living a more authentic life—both in the workplace and outside of work. 

2. Be open to support 

Though it sounds counterintuitive, you can derive great strength and confidence from a willingness to ask for and accept help and support. It’s courageous, in fact. What you’re doing is putting yourself out there. But this does come with one caveat, and it’s the juxtaposition of self-reflection: Ask yourself whether your current employer values such authenticity. Is this an inclusive environment that you’re working in? You want to find common ground with those you work with, but a level of trust must first be present for authenticity to thrive. 

3. Practice authentic communication 

Transparent and authentic communication has long been the cornerstone for healthy and trusting relationships with colleagues—as well as friends, for that matter. Again, you’ll want to go back to self-reflection and ask yourself whether you’re open to feedback, working to understand others and willing to offer your insights. How you interact with others is an extension of your “self.” So, are you sharing what you genuinely believe? You can hedge your comments and soften the blow if necessary. But a large part of bringing your whole self to the workplace is connecting in genuine ways, which can lead to more reciprocal relationships at work. 

While the concept of bringing your authentic self into the workplace has been around for decades, it’s still relevant today. What most people seek in an organizational culture is one where people can be just as authentic as they are professional. You cannot do it alone, and it’s essential to understand whether you’re working in an environment where that’s possible. If you are, your willingness to be yourself will lead to a more productive, creative and inclusive culture where everyone grows. 

Photo by Ivanko80/

Jochebed Fekadu is a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Project Manager at Omnicom Precision Marketing Group.