I have always had some form of part-time employment. Nowadays it is tuition, but throughout my secondary education, I grafted many hours nannying. I often worked in religious homes; taking care of children, cooking, tidying, running errands, etc. Because I was working for religious people, I always ensured I dressed modestly during working hours out of respect for their beliefs.
One day, a certain family knocked on my door, to deliver a birthday present. I opened the door and immediately went vermilion in the face. Forget red. That was fifty shades of awkward ago.
I accepted the gift graciously, choked out some half-strangled apology for my jeans-and-t-shirt combo and shut the door quickly.
In hindsight though, I was home alone, fully dressed, and off the clock. Had I worked for a company and attended work every day in a suit jacket and high heels, I would not feel awkward had my boss visited my home on my day off.
There is a difference between having different work and home personas and being inauthentic.
I am at my most relaxed when my husband and I are home alone. We are able to be ourselves freely, without being judged by the outside world. We lock the doors, play music, eat whatever we like, go to bed early, you name it – the options are endless.
When we have friends over, I am happy to spend time with them, but I am slightly less relaxed. I am alert, I tidy the house before and for the duration of their stay I feel responsible for ensuring that all their needs are attended to. I may dress differently or wear make up depending on the occasion.
The way I behave, feel, and respond will differ slightly according to who is present. That doesn’t mean that what I say or do is in any way construed as ‘lying’, it only reflects on the difference in comfort levels according to the relationship between myself and the other people in the room.
So why should things be any different at work?
There is nothing wrong with differentiating the ‘you’ that goes into the office, does their job, and adheres to the company/team culture, from the ‘you’ that goes home to your family.
This actually helps people to keep their work-life balance in order. If the ‘you’ 9-5 is different from the ‘you’ at home, work problems will not become personal problems. That said, you should not feel unable to talk about work problems with your spouse or a trusted friend. Cutting off those lines of communication can be debilitating in other ways.
As with anything though, there are limits. Putting yourself in a situation that makes you uncomfortable, such as working in a team that regularly go out for drinks when you’re a recovering alcoholic or abstain for any other reason, can cause issues.
All in all, I hope that you can be your most authentic self at work and at home… even if those selves are two different people!