Wearing your heart on your sleeve at work…

This is the first foray into blogging for #HelenaComms, so a little introduction…
We do communications, marketing and engagement for North West housing provider, Helena Partnerships. We often get asked to share our insights and views on comms and how we deliver them to customers, colleagues and stakeholders. So, being the digitally-savvy group that we are, we thought it was about time we shared our musings online. Here goes…
First post falls to me – Lisa Middleton, Communications Manager. Other posts will come from the comms team, including Caroline King, Janelle Hardacre, Peck-Har Tan and Rob Doyle.

Actual blog…
Wearing your heart on your sleeve in the workplace.
The phrase ‘wearing your heart on your sleeve’ seems very personal, so naturally I wouldn’t usually associate this with the workplace. Of course, I like to think that I show a human side at work but I previously always worked to the professional-only principle. Since joining Helena nearly four years ago though, that façade has gradually fallen, and recently I got to thinking about workplace personas. This led me to the ‘wearing your heart on your sleeve’ phrase and why I think it’s important to do that.
What about maintaining professionalism and workplace etiquette I hear you cry?! Well, guess what I think you can do both, and this is why: When I was offered the job at Helena I was over the moon, I couldn’t hide how pleased I was. Then I was asked if I was ready to move from my current role because I had been so passionate about my work and what I was delivering. That passion was exactly why I wanted to work at Helena – because it personally appealed to me. That was wearing my heart on my sleeve.
Showing passion and being honest about thoughts and feelings has led to some fantastic creative comms by our team this year and excellent team working. Working in social housing, I believe it is essential to bring your ‘human’ side to work. Of course there is making decisions, protecting the business and knowing when you can’t do any more, but showing your real side helps empower people to make the right decision and be confident in that. This approach means that the team always considers the customer, colleague or contact who will receive our communications and we tailor accordingly, either by method or tone of voice. This also supports us getting the best value for our work to ensure that the ultimate beneficiary is always the recipient.
Wearing your heart on your sleeve is equally important inside an organisation. When a colleague has an issue, at work or at home, it helps if you have shown your human side, empathy, happiness and sometimes sadness. We sit very near to a team dealing with the most difficult issue of the moment – welfare reform. Everyday we know that the team is having the heartbreaking conversations about whether someone has enough money to pay rent, heat their home or even eat, and they are trying their best to support our customers through these hard times. It’s having personal empathy and a strong network of support among colleagues that has made this team so successful in helping people these major changes. A recent survey of our frontline staff dealing with welfare reform revealed that 100% felt supported by their colleagues. That, for me, is a prime example of wearing your heart on your sleeve in the workplace and why it is important to do so. This close-knit team know that if those difficult conversations get a bit much one day, they can be their true selves, talk about their feelings and get the support they need from colleagues.
Last week was very bittersweet for Helena and was part of the catalyst for writing this post. The day we were told we met all 196 standards for Investors In People Gold Award was the same day we were told a colleague had very suddenly died, aged just 44. While I didn’t personally know Neil, I knew that a lot of my colleagues would. It was really sad to think about Neil’s family and those who worked closely with him. Indeed, my first interaction the next day was in the stairwell with a colleague who was crying about the news. My natural instinct was to offer comfort in the form of soothing words and a hug. This might not have been for everyone, but not for one minute did I think my professionalism would be questioned. I did what anyone would naturally do at seeing someone in distress. While work-based hugging is not my usual thing, a number of times this year I have provided hugs as comfort, goodbyes and congratulations and guess what? I think it improves relationships and that can only be a positive, therefore makes me better at my job.
In light of both pieces of news last week, the comfort was knowing that we would all be there for each other now and in future situations, wearing our hearts on our sleeves.

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