What does it mean to be human? by Simone Fenton-Jarvis

By Guest Contributor Simone Fenton-Jarvis

Author of The Human-Centric Workplace, Simone Fenton-Jarvis, explains what it means to be human.

Humans are not the only species that walk on two legs, we do not have the largest brain and we are not the only ones who have Facilities Management functions – just check out how badgers create environments to live and to thrive, it’s impressive!

Human life used to be simple. We worked to eat and avoid being eaten. We found meaning through art, spirituality, science, and religion. Over time we have become increasingly aware that human traits started evolving millions of years before the first human descended and that any human traits are in fact advanced animal instincts.

Humans are a remarkable species, ruling the planet and driving advancements way beyond anything any other species has. As humans have evolved, our identities have become intertwined, and work has become an extension of our identity. Today, being a human is complex. Considering our identities: parent, friend, nationality, religious beliefs, sexual identity, gender, whether we have tattoos or not, the type of food we eat and our careers. To make things further complex, we navigate the joys of the internet and social media, living in a virtual world where our identity and personas can be whatever we choose.


Being human means to have empathy, to love and feel joy, to be fearful. To have perspective, reflect and feel grateful in the moment. To have optimism and think about the future, to show respect, kindness, and humility. Morality to tell what is right from wrong, curiosity to ask ‘why’, creativity to think ‘how’. Social connectedness, culture, belonging and having a purpose.

There are downsides of being human, too: lies, aggression, violence, theft, cheating, bullying and harassment, stress, gossiping and rumours, objectification, whining and negativity and selfishness. We remain territorial and despite the positives that have come with all our advancements in the world, those same advancements are having consequences on our planet which of course the same human race is on a mission to overcome.

Genetics, personality, our physical appearance, our attitude and values, perspectives and experiences, habits, intellect, life goals and relationships. We are all one of a kind – the uniqueness comes from within and is demonstrated in our actions and behaviours.

It is both the positive and the negative that define humanness and the most underused asset at work in the 21st century? – is simply the ability to be human.  Workplaces are a diverse set of people bringing lots of experiences and skills together for a common purpose – this needs humanness.

People are not just cogs in your organization’s machine, merely existing to drive financial success. People don’t want to be managed, controlled, and worn down, they want purpose, to be empowered and to follow an inspirational leader.

When we bring our humanness to the workplace and enable others to bring theirs, we collectively co-create an environment where people are enabled to thrive.  When our people thrive, communities thrive and as does our planet.


SIMONE FENTON-JARVIS has 15 years of experience working within Workplace and Facilities Management, an MBA and a multitude of industry qualifications, Simone Fenton-Jarvis has shaped and nurtured her passion for human-centric workplaces. She is based in the UK. 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/simone-fenton-jarvis/


Suggested Reading

The Human-Centric Workplace is about highlighting that we can do better, and we must do better. There are numerous ideas and theories about how and why people are what make organizations thrive (or expire) and yet we still fail to ensure organizations are human-centric. Culminating with a playbook, The Human-Centric Workplace aims to inform, inspire and drive change through demystifying the ‘how’ to ensure our people, communities and planet thrive. 

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