Acknowledging 'our version of Christmas' at the workplace

Kiranpreet Kaur
By Kiranpreet Kaur | 9 February 2022
Kiranpreet Kaur

Kiranpreet Kaur – Head of Client & Strategic Services at Archibald Williams

I’ll be the first to admit that I use the phrase myself when trying to explain my holidays and festivals to my coworkers – “yeah, it’s basically our version of Christmas!”

You see, I’m a Punjabi Sikh, born and raised in Canada, now living in Australia (there’s a lot there…and I love it).

The reality in a place as multicultural as Australia, is that there are far more holidays, and therefore, festivals and celebrations, than just Christmas. And Lunar New Year, a festival celebrated by millions, has reminded us of it.

When it comes to festivals and holidays, there are a few things that run across the board – family, food, gifts and celebration. This obviously means there is a lot of planning, organising and time commitments around these times.

BUT, all of those celebrating these holidays don’t get the day off work and, therefore, there is no tangible trigger that can act as a cue for discussion and subsequent awareness of that time.

For the past few years, I’ve taken the day off on Gurpurab (a day celebrated by Sikhs around the world) and have taken it upon myself to let my teams know why I’m off and unavailable on that day. I love the discussions and openness that this has prompted amongst our team – people ask questions, they learn more about me, and they cheerfully wish me a Happy Gurpurab. It’s actually quite wholesome, I must say.

But this wasn’t always the case. For many years in my career, I celebrated my holidays quietly at work. I did my best to wrap up work quickly and try and make it home in time for a big family celebration (that I was likely hosting), all while doing all of the preparation through late nights and weekends.
Upon reflection, I’ve realised that the awareness and dialogue that have resulted from my deliberate move of taking the day off, and being open about it, has made a massive impact on my level of comfort around the diversity in the places I’ve worked.

Let’s face it, our industry isn’t exactly the most diverse – not only in the demographics of those who work in it, but in the work we put out with our clients.

Don’t get me wrong, things are changing, but slowly…and that’s not okay.

The fact is, brands are spending more on 3-month long Christmas campaigns or the Superbowl than on advertising to the massive multicultural communities around their holidays. I swear, if you saw my bills and how much I spent on groceries, gifts and décor around Gurpurab every year, you’d see the missed opportunity there for sure!

So, we’re taking this as opportunity to re-evaluate our policies and our processes to be able to open up the dialogue – both internally and through our work. Asking questions like: How does our office embrace and celebrate different cultural events on the calendar? Are there opportunities with our client partners around these cultural events? Around topics relevant to multicultural communities? How does our briefing process and other processes help ideas come to life in this space?

And, we’re inviting other agencies in Australia to join us and do the same (if you don’t already), and share your ideas – we all need to take this one on together, and I’d love to have some conversations around this!

We hope this creates even more openness and celebration around our wonderfully diverse team and that people feel more comfortable taking a moment to share a bit more about themselves. Because I know that it’s not just “your version of Christmas,” and I can’t wait to learn all about it, how to pronounce it, and maybe even take part through the food (yum!).

To all of those who were celebrating last week, Happy Lunar New Year! Here’s to a brilliant and more inclusive 2022!


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