If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that we’re going through somewhat of a cultural shift. From the presence of pronouns in Instagram bios to the implementation of office half days, covid has profoundly impacted the way we work and the way we present ourselves. Finding the right balance between professionalism and authenticity is a struggle that many have faced in the past. All of this, coupled with our newfound freedoms, forces us to rethink our boundaries and what we think of as acceptable.
I’m currently sitting beside the pool as I write this article. During this time, I’ve responded to client emails, I’ve brokered new deals, and I’ve crafted development plans for several of my partners. One of the biggest arguments against work from home was the productivity question; this question continuously arises because it affects the bottom line. My experience is different from others because I am in effect my own boss and don’t have the same deliverables as some people. That being said, I believe that people can be more productive given the choice to work in the environment of their choice.
Occasionally, even if you work from home like me, you’ll have to meet face to face with clients, coworkers, and management. This poses the challenge of figuring out how to interact in those situations and remain authentic. I’m not saying that you should walk into your boss's office and “dab 'em up” (unless that fits your company culture), but you should be walking into all of your human interactions, professional or otherwise, bringing your best self. If you feel like you have to hide parts of yourself when you’re in the workplace, it can make it a very negative space and limit your ability to perform your best.
Another hot topic when it comes to personal expression in the workplace is attire. What’s acceptable and what isn’t? I’ve worked in positions where I was expected to wear a suit regularly. It seems simple and straightforward, but something about wearing that suit made me feel… strangled. It affected my mood, my thoughts, and my productivity. So, I had to find ways to incorporate my personality into the dress code. My simple solution was to wear a different pin or brooch every day. I was still in “uniform,” but I didn’t feel completely utilitarian. Find ways to make your work attire fun and comfortable. That in itself reinforces your personality.
Being authentic and open in the workplace comes with risks. Some people will see you as a target, others will see you as a usurper, but the most important thing is how you see yourself. Every day you show up to work as yourself, you make it easier for those around you to do the same.
Submitted by: Cameron Ivory