Civic Days with Peanut
I joined CivicDataLab in May 2021, in the middle of the mayhem caused by the second wave of Covid-19 in India and honestly it wasn’t a great mental health phase for me or anyone around me. I was elated about finding an opportunity that interests me, but at the same time I was struggling with my anxiety caused by everything happening around me due to Covid-19. This was the time when reported Covid cases in India were above 4 lakhs daily with death toll rising. Fortunately, I adopted Peanut (my dog), soon after joining CDL and she has been my emotional support throughout.
Pets provide significant emotional support and joy, especially during the times of stress. However, now with reducing covid cases and offices opening up, the time that people would get to spend with their four-legged companions would gradually reduce as most workplaces are not pet-friendly. CDL being a remote first company was my biggest relief while adopting Peanut as I knew I would not have to leave her alone at home once the office spaces open up and people are expected to return to their respective workplaces.
But, how does this really impact a remote-first organisation?
CivicDataLab being a remote-first organisation, meets every quarter for a team offsite “Civic Days” where Bandhus (that’s what we call each other) reflect on their past few months and take key decisions for the next quarter, and further this is the time when key decisions are taken towards any change that has to follow at the organisational level. These meetings are crucial for a remote-first organisation like ours, as this is something we all know now, it isn’t easy to coordinate on many aspects through virtual discussions. However, with the frequent Covid surges and travel restrictions, we at CDL have only managed to meet twice in the last 22 months. The last Civic Days, was held in Goa after a lot of contemplation making sure that most Bandhus have received both and others at the least one dose of the covid vaccination. It was the longest (15 days) Civic Days with all 16 Bandhus attending it.
Since the time of my joining, I was looking forward to meeting my Bandhus for Civic Days but was equally worried about leaving Peanut back in a pet-boarding. It is not common for workplaces in India to be pet-friendly and this has been my biggest concern but fortunately my Bandhus at CDL has been very supportive about taking Peanut along to Civic Days. They all went out of their comfort zone and drove from Bengaluru to Goa to accommodate Peanut when they could have easily saved their time and energy by taking a more comfortable and faster mode of transport.
During our entire stay in Goa, Bandhus were all very loving and caring towards Peanut, and Peanut would make sure to greet everyone in the morning by stopping by and forcing them to pet her. Bandhus made sure that every restaurant we were visiting was pet-friendly in order to accommodate Peanut and to say the least, Peanut has been a very accommodating dog as well throughout the trip. It was a memorable experience for both Peanut and I, and also Peanut’s first ever trip (vacation for her).
Why is it crucial to have pet-friendly policies at the workplace?
With changing relationship and family dynamics, not every individual or family chooses to embrace parenthood in the traditional way, and understanding the importance a pet plays in someone’s life is crucial. In my case, I wouldn’t have been able to attend Civic Days without Peanut and even if I did by leaving her at a pet-boarding facility, I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on work during the Civic Days. The support that my Bandhus showed made me feel welcomed and important at CDL.
However, it may not be viable for every workplace to welcome pets, they can at least show support for employees who are pet parents and cultivate community and involvement by implementing these alternative policy measures:
- Host a picnic or happy hour at a dog park
- Organise a volunteer program at an animal-welfare charity
- Provide “pawternity” time for those with new pets, and bereavement time for those saying goodbye to their old pets
A pet-friendly policy provides yet another chance to establish a workplace and culture that values and supports everyone. Companies that are holistically aware and empathetic will not only have superior mental health, but they will also attract the most loyal and innovative employees.