Would you let your team wear slippers to work if it made them comfortable enough to take risks?

 
Chris Pearce
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To take a risk you need to feel comfortable, which is where the slippers come in.

You wake up late for work, jump out of bed, grab your keys and phone, and dash out the door.

You’re half way down the street when you glance down and realise you’re still wearing your pyjamas. What to do?
Run back and get your slippers.

Bring your whole self

“Bring your whole self to work” is a topic that has been discussed significantly of late. But what does it mean? In simple terms, having the confidence to show every aspect of yourself, including your vulnerabilities, at work – although not necessarily in your spotty pyjamas.

Often people just try and survive in the workplace. But that doesn’t create the environment of forward-thinking innovation that businesses need to thrive today. Ideas can come from anywhere, but you are more likely to create an innovative idea if you are taking a risk. To take a risk you need to feel comfortable, which is where the slippers come in.

Genuine experiences

Work should be about more than just coming in, getting your work done and leaving at the end of the day to start your “real life”. It should be about creating genuine experiences, so that work doesn’t feel like “work”.

Whether these experiences are intentional or accidental, they create a connection between people. Showing your whole self also means showing your vulnerable side. When you feel safe enough to take a risk and show your vulnerable side that is when you are going to create a genuine connection with someone.

In our office we are encouraged to talk about our “outside” passions, and recently a colleague opened up about her mother, who has been a dementia carer for 10 years. After discussing this issue we realised that there were resources in the company that could be used to help, and the result was the creation of the Proximity Button, a low-cost tech device providing carers with an affordable solution to protect people living with dementia from wandering.

Build an open environment

You can’t “bring your whole self to work” on your own. It might be a bit awkward if the finance manager starts walking around in her slippers or the account director starts demonstrating the ballet lessons he had last night. It has to be driven from the top. Management have to create an open environment whereby people feel comfortable to be themselves. You will get more out of your workforce if they feel connected to the business and the people around them.

“Bringing your whole self to work” has already been adopted by many companies – especially within the creative industries – by promoting a certain mental attitude or by physically changing the office environment. Google has been a pioneer in creating this kind of space, with rooms like the “Velourmptious Snug,” or “Granny’s Flat”. Being able to work in a comfortable space like Granny’s Flat gives you space to explore creative ideas, which perhaps wouldn’t have been found while sitting at your desk. These spaces allow people to feel stimulated and pursue passions beyond just work. Patagonia has taken it further than just the work environment by giving its employees a couple of months off a year to pursue their own interests.

Healthy expectations

Ultimately, everyone wants to impress at work, as there are always expectations. However, the minute you stop trying to impress you are going to connect with someone on the same level and ultimately thrive. Healthy expectations should be combined with a sense of nurturing to create an environment where people feel they can be their “whole self”, while challenging themselves.

Chris Pearce is chief executive of TMWUnlimited.

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