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Happy Bring Yourself to Work Day!

I once picked up my nephew from nursery, and I was astounded at the joy that was there. It was like a pleasure dome geared up to help the toddlers feel free and happy. He was able to totally be himself, with no constraints or limits. What happens to that totally uninhibited version of ourselves?

It's a simple answer - rules and systems. Our parents socialize us with guidelines of decency and manners to help us make friends and keep out of prison. Once we get to school a new set of rules are imposed upon us:

"That's not right."

"Sit still, face the front and listen."

"There is a set time for play."

And once we start working, the list keeps growing:

"You're not here to have fun, you're here to work."

"Follow the systems."

"You must act and dress a certain way."

Of course there are certain principles we all live by. You have to actually do some work if you want to get paid, and you should always treat others as you would like to be treated. But I would hazard a guess that the rest - especially rules about your bearing and style - are largely self-imposed.

We often act as if there are often two versions of ourselves - a work version and a real version.

How many of us speak one way at work but another outside? Or wear designated "work clothes" different from what we wear for leisure? Or ways of behaving towards co-workers that we would never use with friends?

The best piece of advice I've ever been given in my career was this: The closer you can align your "work self' with your "real self," the happier you will be in both domains.

Many offices celebrate "Bring Your Child to Work Day," but I would like to suggest that the most important initiative we should introduce is "Bring Yourself To Work Day" - every day. Don't leave the real you at the office door. Bring along:

The you that carefully selects presents and cards for your friends (i.e., the YOU that understands targeting)

The you that decides where you want to live and finds a place the right size for the right price, right when you need it (i.e., the YOU can set SMART objectives)

The you that advises friends on their problems because they respect your point of view (the YOU that has great insight)

The you that uses your passion and knowledge to convince others about your perspective on everything from politics to films (i.e., the YOU that can sell and pitch)

The you that decorates your home and puts together fabulous outfits in a unique style (i.e., the creative YOU)

The you that makes sure you don't overdraw your bank account every month - (i.e., the YOU that can set a budget)

Many things that seem challenging in the workplace - strategy, planning, creativity, critical paths - seem that way because they're wrapped up in unfamiliar language or different contexts. They're actually things you do every day, so the first part of bringing yourself to work is having faith in your real-world skills.

The other thing you should bring is your influences. It can seem wiser to talk about something you read in the Economist than something you read in Glamour. You may like art or movies or reality TV but think that it has nothing to do with your work self. But don't dismiss things because you might think them lowbrow.

As someone who has practically built her whole career on watching TV, let me ask why you would disregard the stimulation, creative genius, consumer insight, intelligence and breadth that is contained in that box? You won't get a better window on the world than a night of telly with ads - better than days of desk research! This isn't even to mention other "outside" influences and stimuli - theatre, cinema, travel, clubbing, design, fashion, sport - that can give you unique and interesting perspectives on your work.

And that's only the beginning. Meeting different people helps you project into user typologies. Listening to talk radio will give you points of view and ways of analyzing problems that you can't get from textbooks. A trip to your supermarket can tell you more about branding and positioning than any client brief. Looking at the ads on your commute can help you think about strategy and give you creative ideas.

Finally, I want to tell you that it's okay to copy and it's okay to be wrong. Sometimes saying "I don't know" is a good thing, and often doing nothing until you have a plan in place is better than doing something just to be seen working. It's not how long you do something, but how well you do it that matters. Those are things you know instinctively out of work, and they're just as valuable in the office.

So make it easy on yourself - don't constrain all your style and skills because you're at work. Do yourself and Ketchum a favour, and don't leave anything at the door - start bringing your whole self to work.

By Ruth Yearley

Suggested by Courtney Davis Walker- Managing Accounts Supervisor- Ketchum

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Davis & Davis Attorneys at Law

Davis & Davis Attorneys At Law