Embracing the Whole Person in the Workplace

Date: April 26, 2024

Written by: Jaimie Hutchison, Director, MSU WorkLife Office & Raneem Asif, Humphry Fellow 

In our quest for a more inclusive and supportive work environment, “The Whole-Person Workplace” by Scott Behson serves as a beacon, guiding us through the nuances of work-life integration, wellness, and employee support. This comprehensive approach is not just a philosophy but a practical pathway to building better workplaces. As I reflect on Behson’s insights and the quotable quotes from industry leaders, it’s clear that embracing the whole person at work is not just beneficial but essential. 

Dan Domenech’s reflection on the recent unrest around racism and inclusion strikes a chord, emphasizing the need for organizations to foster environments where individuals feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. “One part of it is providing a forum for people to talk about their experiences and the times they faced micro-aggressions or unconscious bias,” he notes, underscoring the importance of open dialogue and policies that address social injustice. 

Delta Emerson reminds us, “We have to realize we get the whole person through the door.” This perspective is crucial in understanding that employees bring their entire beings into their work – their physical, mental, and emotional states, all at different life stages. It’s a call to action for organizations to invest in the long-term well-being and success of their employees, which, in turn, fuels the organization’s success. 

The significance of relationships in the workplace is highlighted by the notion that having a best friend at work is a key indicator of long-term satisfaction and engagement. This speaks to the human aspect of work, where connections and camaraderie are foundational to a fulfilling work environment. 

Billy Griffin’s advice, “Don’t be afraid to bring your heart into your business,” and Stephanie Smith’s emphasis on the critical role of culture and supervisor support in flextime and remote work arrangements resonate deeply. These insights underline the importance of leading with empathy and creating a supportive cultural framework that allows for flexibility and adaptability. 

The discussion on wellness programs by Tony Bridwell and Elizabeth Hall broadens our understanding of workplace well-being. It’s not just about physical health but encompasses mental, financial, and overall life wellness. “Wellness flows back and forth,” Hall mentions, highlighting the interconnectedness of our personal and professional lives. 

Furthermore, the emphasis on human capacity management, recognizing the unique needs of each employee, and the inclusion of men in family-friendly policies as highlighted by Jessica DeGroot, showcases the multifaceted approach required to support the whole person. 

As we consider the shifts in work arrangements and the need for flexibility, as evidenced by the pre-Covid Working Mother Research Institute survey, it’s evident that flexible work arrangements contribute significantly to employee satisfaction, productivity, and overall well-being. 

In embracing the Whole-Person Workplace, we recognize that caring for employees as whole individuals fosters a culture of mutual respect and support. This approach is not just about implementing programs and policies but about nurturing a foundational underpinning of mutual support, as Doreen Anthony aptly notes, “It’s creating that underpinning of mutual support that makes people willing to go the extra mile for you.” 

The journey towards a Whole-Person Workplace is ongoing, requiring continuous effort, dialogue, and adaptation. Yet, the benefits are undeniable, leading to a more engaged, satisfied, and productive workforce. As we navigate this path, let us remember the importance of addressing the whole person, fostering an environment where every individual can thrive in all aspects of their life.