India has a lot of festivals.
At Yellow Seed, we don’t celebrate any of them.
We still have a pretty good time - not despite this, but because of this.
To start with, there are at least above 80 festive occasions that state governments and the central government recognise. Then there are all the different festive occasions that communities observe across religions and geographies that are not in that list. When was the last time you heard of Shad Sukra being celebrated in Mumbai? That is, if you’ve heard of this festival from Meghalaya in the first place. We realized a few years ago, that for all the diversity we so proudly talk about, we don’t do a very good job of taking the effort to educate ourselves about it. Here’s why we officially took this call a few years ago.
When we choose to recognise just a few major festivals at the workplace, we deprive others of the opportunity to feel at home. Who’s to decide one festival is more important than another just on the basis of skewed diversity numbers? Observing holidays is not just a matter of justice and treating employees equally. It’s also about ensuring employee engagement through fair representation.
Many studies have proven how workplace diversity leads to productivity. To quote one statistic, companies with more culturally diverse teams were 33% more likely to reap better profits. However, this doesn’t work when organisations don’t have an inclusive work culture. It’s like having a pavement to walk on but no actual place to walk. Employees need to feel enabled in order to contribute effectively. The feeling of belonging is important enough to keep 42% of employees in their current designation, instead of leaving for a different position.
Given the number of festivals, it’s a bit unrealistic to mark all of them. And then there are people who may choose not to observe religious or political occasions in the first place. At Yellow Seed, we want to make sure everyone’s a part of the party. So we reject a seemingly professional tradition that ends up being exclusive, discriminatory and redundant. Plus, digging into who follows what religion or festival, or whether someone eats meat or remains a vegan, is, a form of employee profiling that we as a company are just not up to. Simply put, it’s not part of our value system. We don’t celebrate holidays as an organisation together, though everyone is free to individually do something special for an occasion if they like - or any normal day really.
That’s made folks at Yellow Seed become pretty inventive! We still get together to celebrate in both the smallest and biggest of ways. We cherish the everyday, and make sure we notice the little things others might miss out on. Sometimes it’s a box of pastry appreciating a colleague for the work they did, sometimes it’s a work anniversary surprise waiting on your desk. Then there’s the likes of No Work Day, when we let our clients know we’ll be gone for the day to work on ourselves - by taking a break, of course. Things we do on this day range from yelling at each other to dodge that left punch (read: gaming session) to holding a poetry jam by faerie lights. There’s the unplanned stuff too - everything from an impromptu jalebi and vada pav evening (read food coma) to a ‘nerf gun battle’ for the ages.
So when we stop by a colleague’s desk to ask for Punjabi music recommendations, or ideas for a Navaratri campaign in Gujarat, we know that we’re both sowing and reaping the rewards of a diverse workplace. We’re able to exchange ideas and awesome bits from each culture because we give equal importance for all of them. And by doing that, we’re making ourselves and our work better. Now that’s something to celebrate!