It’s a random Monday in the summer of 2015. I’m sitting in class at the Department of English at the Jadavpur University in Kolkata, doodling in a friend’s notebook while the professor reflects on representation of consumerism in Vladmir Nabakov’s Lolita. My friend notices that I’m making a list of random hill stations. She joins me, and by the time the class ends, we have a list of ten places – Darjeeling, Kurseong, Ooty, Kaluk and so on. We get our other friends to check out the list, and by the end of the day, we’ve planned an entire trip together. In the coming fortnight, we have a chunk of days off for May Day and some other local festival. Coupled with some ‘self-assigned holidays’ (what we like to call the days we bunk classes on), we can carve out a good amount of time for a satisfying trip to Sikkim.

Cut to the summer of 2022. The same friends are now spread out all over – one is doing her PhD at JNU, another works for an Ed Tech company in Bangalore, and another is climbing the corporate ladder at an MNC. We are trying to find common holidays to take a trip together, but it just. won’t. work. After a week of constant back and forth, we give up and decide to try another time. This is adulthood, we tell ourselves. This is what we signed up for when we decided to pursue full-time careers. We can’t just take off as we did in our university days. The companies we work for get to decide for us.

Except that they don’t- not for me, at least. Ever since I joined Hachi Bee in February, I have had the freedom to choose 12 regional holidays that are meaningful to me, and I get to celebrate them the way I want. When October comes around, and Durga Pujo week arrives in my hometown with all its pomp and glory, I won’t have to sulk like many of my friends who work for companies based abroad or in other parts of India where they don’t assign more than one holiday for Dushhera/Dashami.

I also get to take 18 days of paid time off. When taking this time off, if it’s 7 days or more at a stretch, I have to let the team know at least a month in advance so they can work around my absence. It’s a straightforward approach that works well when there is clear communication (and you know how much we love communicating here at Bee).

I’m sure this all sounds delightful already, but I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet. The best part about Bee’s approach to holidays is that it doesn’t track sick days. “If you’re unwell and cannot work, just take the day off”. It’s really as simple as that. Funny how this kind of fundamental human kindness seems extraordinary to us – says a lot about the kind of world we’ve built. If someone at Bee is sick, all they have to do is let the team know that they won’t be in. I’ve seen too many friends suffering through long workdays with period cramps and migraines just so they can ‘preserve’ their sick days to know just how significant of a departure this is from the norm.

When you see this approach working, and working well, you can’t help but wonder – why ISN’T this the norm? Shouldn’t it be? Shouldn’t people be treated like people and not machines? (“I want to extract as much value from you as I can”, said the head of an organization to me once, as I was interviewing for a job I OBVIOUSLY did not take).

At Bee, each policy puts people at the centre – whether it’s the way we tell stories, the way we communicate with each other, or the way we approach holidays. It’s the kind of approach that helps people do their best, and makes them want to do even better because they know they’re working for an organization that values them as individuals, and cares about their wellbeing.

When I tell my friends about Bee, the most common and immediate response is, “Do they have any openings?”. If that isn’t a sign that Bee gets it right, I don’t know what is.

If you’ve read this far, you must have found something you liked. Having a flexible holiday policy isn’t a utopian fantasy, it is being done right here, right now. As always, we recommend that you customize the approach according to your organisation’s needs. Let us know how it’s going!

By Proiti Seal Acharya

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