March 24, 2022

How to support people to bring their whole self to work

bringing your whole self to work

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Plenty of companies talk about ‘bringing your whole self to work’, but what does it actually mean? It’s often seen as encouraging people to show up fully and authentically, and not having to present such a ‘corporate’ identity. But it can also mean being open and honest about things that could be perceived as ‘flaws’. Enabling people to talk about mental health issues, personal challenges and other issues creates an environment of psychological safety that carries through to other areas of work.

Additionally, support before, during, and after gender transition is extremely important to override the increased discrimination transgender people face. More than one in four transgender people have lost a job due to bias, and more than three-fourths have experienced some form of workplace discrimination.

Read on to hear from seven of our Endorsed Employers about the ways they support mental health, encourage people to show up fully to work, and provide a safe workplace for people undertaking gender transition. 

Wellbeing programs support a positive culture

At Downer, they have a Health & Wellbeing Policy and Psychological Impairment & Evacuation procedure that have been endorsed by executives, demonstrating the company’s commitment to the policy. They provide health and wellbeing training, resources, initiatives and strategies that are aligned to industry best practice. 

Reward Gateway offers wellbeing coaches and a wellbeing allowance for employees. Additionally, it provides different networks and communities where people can share resources, support initiatives and provide a safe space for discussion and learning e.g. Women’s Network, LGBTQIA+ Network, Accessibility Network, Multicultural Network and InterGen Network. 

Sarah Lambley (she/her), Head of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging at Telegraph Media Group, shares their approach to wellbeing. 

“We take the wellbeing and mental health of our employees seriously and provide a full range of support and service. We have over 100 trained Mental Health First Aiders to support employees in confidence. We also have Mental Health and Wellbeing Champions in teams across the organization. Our Wellbeing Employee Network works with the organization to support the physical, mental and financial health of our employees. The network runs a number of events throughout the year such as Wellbeing Week and Mental Health Awareness Week.”

“Thank you for placing such importance on mental health and wellbeing. The Stress Awareness Week event was truly inspiring and left me with so much to think about. I’ve now signed up to become a Mental Health First Aider and Champion.”

Telegraph Media Group employee

Spirit Energy is being innovative in their offerings to support wellbeing, thinking outside the standard offerings and aiming to truly engage staff. Stacey Kincaid (she/her), Resourcing and DEI Manager outlines,

“We partner with a provider to offer quarterly storytelling events to empower individuals to share their own stories with confidence, initiate open conversations, share vulnerabilities, and create inclusive behaviors. Where we can, a female leader will provide opening remarks to the session, including some of their own personal story. We have also recorded employee-led podcasts where we focus on a particular topic such as returning to the office (during the pandemic) or a mental health journey.”

Supporting wellbeing is great for people who aren’t struggling from an acute issue, but assistance for bigger challenges is also important. 

Employee Assistance to help manage mental health

If wellbeing programs help support people in feeling even better, then Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are for those who might be struggling with challenges at home or work. It’s important to support people early, so they can recover and start thriving again.

“Having gone through a very traumatic and emotionally exhausting experience within my personal life, my team at Downer have supported me and been extremely sensitive of my circumstances.

They have provided me with encouragement, a gentle ear, time off work with next to no notice, provided me with EAP services, constant follow-up, and have even provided me a platform to tell my story and have a positive impact on other business employees facing similar challenges. I have been made to feel that I am important, loved, and an asset to the business, despite my personal life challenging me.”

Hollie Mazzucchelli (she/her), Recruitment Business Partner, Downer

Downer’s Group Health Function provides free unlimited counseling, coaching, legal, financial and dietitian/nutritional support through their EAP service. During 2021 – a challenging year for many people – there was high uptake on the program. 

Additionally, Downer commenced a major partnership with Beyond Blue, to help support the mental health of more people in Australia. Michelle Hargreaves (she/her), Recruitment and Sourcing Team Lead at Downer shared,

“Our partnership with Beyond Blue will help us deepen this support for our people and also the broader community which has, over the past 15 months, reached out to Beyond Blue in record numbers.”

JP Morgan and Telegraph Media Group both have similarly comprehensive EAP services, offering support around maternity and parenting, emotional health, legal and financial issues and other family needs. 

At Reward Gateway, they offer Mental Health Coaching Support alongside their Employee Assistance Program, encouraging trained employees to support anyone who needs assistance. 

Cummins’ EAP services allows all employees and their immediate family to access free, professional, anonymous support for a variety of issues. One of their employees anonymously shared how impactful the EAP service was for her. 

“During my first week in a contract role with Cummins, my husband said he wanted a divorce. It hurt and I felt miserable. My manager was great. She walked me through the different support Cummins offered. There were multiple EAP sessions available where I could get professional help, and the amount would reset for any new issue encountered. I was encouraged to take personal leave whenever I needed to stop and just take care of myself. My workload was also assigned carefully so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed.

Originally, I was worried that experiencing this ordeal so early in my time with Cummins would see it cut short and people would judge me. Instead, the team has demonstrated a deep sense of caring and understanding that has helped me thrive. I have since accepted a permanent position with the company.”

Spirit Energy also offers support for mental health. Stacey Kincaid (she/her), Resourcing and DEI Manager shared,

“During 2020 we launched mental health coaching. These sessions offer our employees and second party contractors a safe and confidential space to talk about anything with a professional and qualified coach – a bit like a personal trainer for mental health.”

And for EAP services, there’s no issue off-limits. A Spirit employee who used the service shared,

“I was a bit hesitant at first before my session as I felt I would be wasting their time, as my problem was very minor and didn’t feel like it was worthy of a detailed conversation with someone so qualified. The coach was so friendly and inviting and when I began to describe the situation, she made me feel so reassured and gave me some really useful tools to put into practice with this particular situation. I would definitely recommend it to anyone, even if it seems your issue or concern isn’t a huge one – it’s really nice to get some practical tools from someone impartial.”

Gender transition and what workplaces can do

Gender transition is a hugely vulnerable time, and as the statistics we shared above demonstrate, trans people suffer from higher levels of workplace discrimination – not to mention the harassment and discrimination they can face in their personal lives. Because of the level of discrimination, and the impact of mental health and individual wellbeing, support for people before, during and after transition is  valuable offering. 

Reward Gateway offers Trans and Gender Affirmation Support, to ensure that people are supported throughout their transition. To show their support to any of their employees during this time in their life they provide up to 4-weeks fully paid leave to take the time they need to recover after the gender affirmation process. They also offer:

  • Flexible working is also available to ensure they can meet appointments which often include long distance travel. 
  • Salary advances to help cover prescription drugs and hair transplant or removal. 
  • £500 worth of boom! points to go towards a new wardrobe at a retailer of their choice. 
  • Personal Wellbeing Coaches to support ongoing resilience and mental health support. 
  • EAP service to provide transgender and non-binary employees and their loved ones with up to 6 individual sessions of counselling to support their mental health.
  • Gender neutral bathrooms in their offices (aside from in their Australian offices which are in shared facilities). 
  • And, pronoun visibility across all internal communications.

Woolworths also support any staff members undertaking transition. Employee Laura Merraine (she/her), DC Support Technician shared her story.

“Someone had raised a concern about me using the female bathrooms. [One of our leaders] advised me of this and shared that she wanted to be transparent to me, and that she would talk with our team. I struggled with this, as I initially felt that the support I had received to now from my work place was finite.

I always remember the leader saying to me, I know what the rules are, but I want to do what is right. I felt so much support, and so much acceptance, and she lived up to her word. What was a real dark moment in my transition, and where I needed support – she was there, and ensured I got that support, and the right outcome” 

Laura’s advice for companies wanting to support their people – not just employees going through gender transition – is,

“If you want the best from your employees, encourage them to be true to themselves, this will create a better work environment and a more productive environment. Be proud that you have diversity policies, place links to them in your recruitment to show that you’re truly being inclusive.”


Showing up to work authentically isn’t just about dropping a corporate facade. It’s also about being honest in mental health or personal challenges so that your workplace can support you. Wellbeing offerings are great for offering a little bit of additional support for employees generally doing fairly well. EAP services go beyond that layer, to assist people facing bigger challenges. And crucially for our trans community, support in transitioning and excellent supportive policies will help them overcome barriers of discrimination they may face. 

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About the Author
Samantha Sutherland is the Chief Storyteller at WORK180. She is a Diversity and Inclusion specialist with an analytical background, making her work evidence-based and data driven. Host of WORK180’s Equality Talks podcast and her own Women at Work, Samantha divides her time between interviewing amazing women for WORK180, mentoring and coaching women in, or aspiring to, leadership roles, and providing high-level advice on diversity practices to Australian corporations. You can learn more about the Samantha Sutherland consultancy at

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