Why we Don't Celebrate Festivals @ Work #Culture
Updated: Jan 22
India has a lot of festivals.
At SPRD, we celebrate none 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 recognized. Then there are all the different festive occasions that communities observe across religions and geographies 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. 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 or make everyone in the city feel understood and welcome.
When we choose to recognize just a few major festivals in 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 organizations 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 SPRD, 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. We don’t celebrate holidays as an organization together, though everyone’s free to individually do something special for an occasion if they like - or any normal day really.
That’s made folks at SPRD become pretty inventive! We still get together to celebrate in both the smallest and biggest of ways. We cherish every day 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 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 better and our content better - now that’s something to celebrate!