One of the most widely taught approaches to writing an article or essay (popularised by English teachers across the Indian subcontinent) is to begin with a quote from a famous author. Let’s say I was writing about Spring festivals, I’d be scoring an extra point for crowning my essay with Shelley’s iconic line: “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”. Our teachers taught us that using quotes sets the tone for our writing, legitimises it, and also shows how much we know about the subject.

Well, I can’t disagree with that. Except I choose to begin this piece not with a poem but with a meme (are memes also poetry in our abstract, disintegrated, tech-addled world? Discuss). This is a meme I’ve often come across on Instagram and dreaded the day I might have to find myself in a place like this.

As I finished my second consecutive master’s degree (one of the reasons I did two degrees is to avoid jobs entirely, to be honest), I was maniacally applying to jobs that described themselves exactly like this. Other sentences in those job descriptions included “looking for a someone who cares about nothing but work”, “must be willing to work 24 hours a day and 7 days a week” and “must be willing to sacrifice a pumpkin during the full moon to ensure our targets are hit every time” (okay I might be exaggerating a LITTLE bit). Needless to say, I was not looking forward to any of this.

Then the universe worked its magic, and I found myself at Bee, a company that intentionally works to create and sustain a “people-first” work culture. This was my first encounter with this term. Sounds neat, I thought, without really understanding what it takes to pull it off. Sure, I read up the Wildbit blogs that Karina recommended, along with a bunch of other materials I found online. But, as with pretty much everything else, you only understand something fully when you experience it yourself. At Bee, people-first is serious business. It’s not a buzzword or catchphrase that gets thrown around to make the company look good. It’s a dedicated, collective effort that works because everyone does their bit.

People-first might look different in different companies and contexts. At Bee, it looks like this:

Remote and Async work that allows time and space for people to do deep work without constant monitoring and surveillance.

Clear delegation of tasks and a “manager of one” approach that empowers each member of the team to know exactly what they need to do, when and where to seek help if needed, and manage their own schedules and deadlines.

Open channels of communication to ensure a smooth flow of work without confusion and frustration.

Flexible holiday policy that lets everyone choose their own regional holidays, and take sick days off without being tracked and penalized.

Culture of respect, consideration and understanding between colleagues that permeates all activities and interactions.

At Bee, people-first isn’t an option – it’s built into the very foundations of the organization. As Chris from Wildbit writes, “Building a people-first culture at work means being intentional about creating spaces where team members can feel supported and valued while doing fulfilling, meaningful work.” Bee’s success in creating this culture in a capitalist world that teaches us competition, ruthlessness and chasing of profits and targets right from the moment we learn our ABCs, is worthy of praise. As someone who is frequently found dissecting capitalism and its effects on individuals and society (while also lamenting over the fact that I have to be part of the capitalist juggernaut to make a living, be an adult etc. etc.), I consider myself lucky to have found Bee.

The pandemic showed us that existing structures and systems are faulty and detrimental to the well being of human beings and the planet itself. Many companies have treated this as a wake-up call and decided to shift towards people-first work cultures. We could all do with a more humane world, and we can make it humane in our own little ways.

By Proiti Seal Acharya

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