In most cultures worldwide, December is reserved for friends and family, for holidays.
People reflect on the past year and welcome the new one steeped in joy and festivity.
Many Axelerant team members, too, go on long holidays with their loved ones.
In the winter of 2023, we wanted to do something to celebrate this joyous time of the year with all Axelerant team members—before out-of-office emojis began adorning their Slack profile pictures.
We wanted to celebrate. Not for a day or two.
But for an entire week.
It All Started With A Challenge
The year 2023 went well.
Clients were happy, and the work was good.
We bagged some big and prestigious awards for our work—and work culture.
Team members were happy, too.
And they wanted Axelerant to share in their happiness with tangible tokens of appreciation. Like gifts.
At first we thought: Sure, why not? What a lovely idea!
After all, we were feeling grateful for how the year went, for the small and big wins that came our way.
And none of it could’ve happened without people’s hard work.
But there was this one little thing. . .
We did gifts, but were certain that it had to be something more than mere tangible presents landing on people's doorsteps.
Even more challenging was aligning that “something” with our culture.
Gifts To Appreciate. . .? Meh
Before you start judging—we don't have anything against gifts. We love them.
And we love surprises, too.
But. . .isn't it a little too convenient and a little less thoughtful to just send the same gifts to everyone?
Sure, it takes effort. But at the end of the day, it's just material that people can buy themselves.
Plus, every organization that wants to show some semblance of appreciation already does that.
So, you see, it had to be something more. (We didn't do away with gifts altogether, though. We aren't monsters!)
First, We Got Our Intention Straight
(A fair amount of ideas, half ideas, fractured words, sounds, and rhymes were thrown about pell-mell.)
We stepped back and asked ourselves: what do we want team members to feel?
And the answer was similar to what we were trying to convey: gratefulness.
We were thankful to every team member for their efforts and for trusting, working, and growing with us.
We wanted to say thank you.
We wanted them to truly feel the spirit of gratefulness from us, their team members, and, if possible, from within.
And we had to do it in a way that was fun—like, Godzilla busting a move in party-wear fun.
And That’s When It Hit Us: A Gratitude Week
At first, we wanted to do it small—a half day of virtual meetings where people get gifts and food vouchers and share things they are grateful for at work.
But if there's one thing you should know about us, it is this: we don't play it safe or small.
So, the "half-day" time slot soon became an entire week.
A week dedicated to gratitude.
Sprinkled with games, activities, reflections, creativity, and, most importantly, togetherness.
Practicing gratitude has many surprising and not-so-surprising benefits for individuals.
To ensure that the practice took life in people's lives, we structured the week under the Observe, Think, Feel, Do model.
Each day's activities corresponded to this model to bring a structure to the week and the practice.
A Week Of Celebration That Brought Everyone Together
Usually, we keep all kinds of participation optional until it concerns core work roles. (As it should be, right?)
Even then, joining meetings is mostly optional.
So, frankly, we were—slightly—worried about how team members would receive the whole idea.
Everything was in order operationally. And we held our breath.
We Kicked Things Off With A Session
We dove into the week with a session from our Coaching Director, Mridula Ujjwal.
The session helped open ourselves up to the week's possibilities and brought everyone on the same page.
The concept of gratitude is quite simple.
But consciously practicing it? A whole other thing.
Simple things are usually the hardest to do—like sticking to a routine.
How often do we notice and consciously appreciate the little things floating by that make us feel good?
Took Time Out To Appreciate The Magical Blessings Surrounding Us
The second day was all about observing.
Every little thing that made people's lives better, comfortable, livable, enjoyable.
It wasn't limited to material objects. Some team members put down access to morning sunlight in their room as something they felt grateful for.
They noted each item on pieces of paper and used these to fill gratitude jars.
And people decorated these jars with whatever beauty meant for them without any specifications.
These now sit on people's work desks—its contents an ever-ready reminder that no matter how bleak a day feels, we are surrounded by items that make our lives spectacular.
There was a word puzzle, too. Filled with gratitude words. (You can create your own from scratch from this website.)
How many could you discover?
And The People Without Whom We Couldn’t Have Made It This Far
The third day was all about thinking.
Most of us have people who put in tremendous effort to make us reach where we stand today.
Not just one's immediate family. A childhood teacher, a friendly neighbor, a friend who's always been there through thick and thin.
Team members had to discover these people and their contributions.
Then, write letters showing honest appreciation for their contributions to their lives.
And send them.
This structure helped them along the path of introspection.
We also played a fun game—the Cricket Team of Life.
The theme was simple.
If your life were a cricket match, which of your people (friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, etc.) would make the cut?
Ananya Shekar, Engagement Manager, facilitated the game with precise questions that made one introspect about the people they depend and count upon, with or without realizing.
Dedicated Bucket-Loads Of Songs To Each Other
The fourth day was all about feeling.
And we toned down on activities to allow for people to feel.
All team members had to do was tune in to our very own in-house Zoom channel-turned-radio station—with a handpicked playlist of songs. Yup!
Songs that go with the spirit of gratitude.
Then came song dedications.
For the team members, by the team members, from the team members.
I’d be trivializing the impact of this activity by saying that this was a hit.
This was a hit alright, all the way to the finish line.
People here really seem to like each other.
So much so that we had to close the dedication form—before time!—because playing them all would’ve kept us glued to our screens till late night.
Unwrapped Our Gifts Of Choice
You didn’t think we’d do away with presents, did you?
There’s something nice about having presents delivered to one’s doorstep.
And this week was all about making team members feel nice.
So we curated three sets of presents and let people have the option to choose whichever they fancied.
Premium chocolates, healthy snacks, gratitude diaries, and self-pampering kits were some items in those little gift boxes.
Appreciated The People Who Make Work Awesome
The fifth and the last day of the week was about doing.
Sending love to the people one worked with—within and outside one’s team.
And we did it through a game of bingo with prompts.
Team members had to follow the prompts, which focused on expressing gratitude through personal messages to people who make their work life awesome and help them grow.
Then, take screenshots of those messages and paste them into a PPT.
And when all the messages for the prompts were sent and the screenshots pasted, share the PPT with everyone.
At the day’s end, we all got on a call and reflected on the week and how it impacted us.
And Spread The Gratitude Spirit To Where It Matters The Most
At Axelerant, we believe in giving back.
Not as a public relations stunt. Giving back to where it truly matters.
Many of our team members usually devote time to contributing to developing open-source platforms like Drupal and WordPress.
And we couldn't let this spirit of giving back slide during this week.
That's why we selected a list of charities to donate at the event's end.
If you've made it this far, you, too, can celebrate the spirit of gratitude in your team.
It's so worth the effort.
And if your workplace isn't ready for this kind of activity that celebrates its people and their work, consider a new workplace?
This week has renewed us and brought us together.
Rohit Ganguly, Content Marketer
Rohit is a content marketer first and a YouTuber second. He loves to interact with animals, feed them, clean his apartment, and spend time with friends and family. Curious by nature, he also enjoys literature, movies, meditation, and calligraphy.