September 2, 2022

Birdie voices: I haven't chewed for 7 months

Table of contents

…or reasons why the culture at Birdie is a very special thing!

By Babara Forbes, Senior Product Analyst at Birdie

“It’s kind of for medical reasons,” I tell a new colleague, when he asked about my lunch drink earlier this week. One of our co-founders raises his eyebrows and passes a knowing glance. “Ok, it’s entirely for medical reasons.” We laugh; you probably would not choose to forgo chewing for months on end. But it’s what I do to thrive in life -and the positive culture at Birdie has enabled me to also thrive at work, despite a disability that creates severe restrictions on what I can or can’t eat.

Here are three reasons why:

I choose how much health information I share with colleagues. Having a chronic illness defines so much of my life already. However, I wanted my colleagues to know me for my data skills, being a team player and performing ukulele jingles on company-wide calls. With most colleagues it’s sufficient to explain that I have a lot of food intolerances and am working with doctors to find medication that works and then eat food again. A few know more details. I have ulcerative colitis and when medication and an increasingly restrictive diet was still not abating my symptoms, my dietician suggested I get all my nutritional needs from a well known meal replacement drink.

The option to work remotely is exactly what I need. I started at Birdie during the pandemic, and as a severely immunocompromised individual I felt more comfortable working from home. For the first 5 months, I only connected with my colleagues online - despite living just a half-hour cycle from the office. As the pandemic waned and my health improved, I started to work from the office some days. I still stay home if I’m feeling too tired or am expecting a sensitive phone call - just like anyone would. I notice myself needing this more often compared to before I got sick and am grateful it’s a practice that’s normalised for everyone. I don’t feel out of place with an unstructured home working arrangement.

The colleagues I work with really don’t care; but also really want to care. Initially, when I was working from home, my restrictive dietary requirements didn’t come up. As I started to come to the office, my fellow office-mates naturally noticed that I join them for a walk to wherever they’re buying lunch - but always drink the same thing I’ve brought with me. Initially I felt a bit self-conscious for being different. However, when I brought this up with my manager she reminded me that nobody cares. Which is so true. At the same time, they do care. HR and I have an agreement where I expense my food-drinks whenever they are sponsoring food or drink for a work event. My close colleagues know my order when we’re at the pub after work - still water, no lemon, no ice. And so many Birdies have been heart-warmingly curious in the best way possible - whether it’s a group brainstorm of what to do with all the empty drink bottles (a raft for the Thames has been the best idea, if you’re wondering) or questions about my favourite flavour combinations (chocolate mixed with salted caramel).

A few weeks ago I was prescribed a new drug. I’m beginning to feel healthier and am now blending apples and bananas into my drink meals. There’s been a suggestion to replace our company North Star metric with a Babs Banana Meter. If this goes well I might even start chewing food soon!

However no matter what I can or can’t eat, whether I’m at home or in the office, or even if I set sail on a raft made of meal replacement drink bottles, the culture at Birdie has made me feel comfortable being myself. As a result, I’m able to deliver my best work while prioritising what’s best for my health.


Looking for your next step? Check out open roles at Birdie here

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