How are you? Really?

Friday, 22 May 20208 minute read
Pure Planet

For Mental Health Awareness Week, we reflect on how wellbeing and kindness are at the heart of Pure Planet’s culture

A business with a purpose

Pure Planet is a business with a purpose: to make renewable energy affordable and available to all, creating a Britain that is powered by clean, green energy. Achieving this, which aligns with the United Nations Global Goal number 7, the Paris Climate Agreement and the UK’s ambition to be net zero by mid century, lies at the heart of our culture. And it’s what engages our people to play their part in achieving it.

We’re an independent company, founded and run by friends, and we launched in 2017. The first team member joined in October 2016. The business was put together by three leaders from other industries (Telecoms and Finance) and it is their philosophy of putting ‘purpose for people’ at the heart of running the business that has created our engaging culture. We now employ 100 people.

Our Culture

Our founders created an environment that aimed to be inspiring, motivating and meaningful. They wanted to develop a culture that was not corporate or overly-structured, but one based on trust, shared values, and a desire to help create a better, more sustainable future. At the heart of this ethos is employee wellbeing and mental health.

Andrew Ralston, our CEO puts it like this: “At Pure Planet, we want to create a company where people enjoy their work, feel fulfilled and valued. We want people to be confident in being themselves; we’re all different, and we’re all kind to each other. This means being able to talk openly about our mental health in the same way we would our physical health. We are so much stronger when people are able to be open, when they are happy, engaged, and loving what they do.”

We also believe in a positive, vibrant engaging way of working where individuals are respected and treated like adults. We believe if people enjoy their work, they will be more motivated, engaged and productive. Key to this is that our people feel they ‘belong’, that they feel they’re part of the company, and that they feel trusted.

We’re all determined to make the world a better and more sustainable place. We’re here for a purpose just as much as for making a profit. At Pure Planet, we are ambitious to achieve a triple bottom line of people, planet, as well as profit.

We were delighted to be ranked number two in the Sunday Times Top 100 Best Small companies to work for 2020 and the very Best Company to work for in the South West.

What Trust in Employees Means in Practice

We’re flexible! Our teams manage their working times, so people can complete their work without the constraints of 9–5. If people need time to sort something out at home, or with family, that’s fine. They take it. And every team member gets unlimited paid holidays. The success of this style of working is dependent on healthy behaviours being demonstrated across the business.

Normalising Mental Health

We’re proud Pure Planet’s work on wellbeing is showcased in Best Companies Mental Health Report

The key to demonstrating healthy behaviours is ensuring that senior managers are leading the way, especially when it comes to mental health and its celebration this week. Our leaders, for example, are open with our team about their own mental health strengths and difficulties, demonstrating that it’s normal to have these kinds of conversations. We want people to feel that it’s OK to talk to somebody about whatever they need to, and that you won’t be singled out or risk promotion as a result.

Our ‘Pure Me’ self-discovery programme is a good example of how this works.

‘Pure Me’, our Self-Discovery Wellbeing Programme

Initially this was set up as a chance for a personal development talk, but actually it’s turned into a wellbeing “initiative” that gives colleagues an opportunity to open up in a space away from the office. We invited our team to get out to the countryside for a ‘walk and talk’ session with someone else in the business.

We didn’t want to have a traditional classroom-based session involving painful role play and stressful group exercises. We needed a session that would provide a solid foundation to understand each others’ strengths — and what their limitations and learning needs are. We wanted a session that was all about self-discovery, would foster teamwork and end in action planning.

We devised an outdoor, in-nature activity, to which everyone was invited to attend. We split the team up over six sessions day-long sessions (including the senior management team) to make it personable. Each session was held in the rolling hills outside of Bath, over a guided 5-mile walk through open countryside. People from various departments within Pure Planet mixed together.

Each person was invited to self-reflect at various rest stops and, while they were walking, to buddy-up with another in a co-coaching way to discuss their learning and development aspirations. One of the team said afterwards.

“I have done lots of self-development type things before and I hated it. This one was really good …. really different and I learnt so much. It also really made me think about my own wellbeing and that it’s normal to be self doubting”

The walk ended in a small village which has a community-run pub. The final exercise of the day involved action-planning in the pub garden with a well-deserved drink.

In addition to our ‘Pure Me’ programme, we have an Employee Assistance Programme and we’ve trained up two members of the team to be Mental Health First Aiders. We regularly run ‘Lunch & Learns’ on wellbeing which have been delivered by external experts and internal team members.

Pure Planet and the COVID-19

Our focus on wellbeing and our people’s mental health has really paid dividends as we entered the global Covid-19 pandemic. These are difficult and strange times for us all. The freedom of movement restrictions have disrupted our normal routines and the way we work has changed for many — and possibly, forever. School closures have added an enormous extra challenge on our team members who have school age children.

Those things that don’t cost much money have made the biggest difference

For Pure Planet, it’s been the small things that’ve made the biggest difference; and it’s usually those things that don’t cost any money! Each team has a daily video call, people are having 11am virtual coffee breaks with people from across the business and every week we have a video company meeting — 100 people logging into an update on all things Pure Planet.

But what’s been most impactful in ensuring our employees know that their wellbeing is the company’s priority is that our three founders have called every member of our team individually, to check in and see that everyone is ok. All 100 people. Personally.

It’s Ok to ask for help

Our culture of speaking openly about mental health, which has been fostered directly by our founders, ensures that our people know it’s OK to ask for help. And they can have confidence that the business will be responsive, supportive and sympathetic.

This might mean a change in working hours or providing mental health support. People have different needs, are in different situations and have different interests, so as a business we need to think: “how do I keep everyone involved and feeling connected?”.

Getting feedback from everyone is a vital part of this, which is why — at Pure Planet — we are constantly asking our people: “how can we make this better for you?”. This is not done through a faceless survey but through face to face conversations — albeit for the moment on video calls.

Working from home has made us closer as we all go through this

We’ve made it a ‘rule’ that it’s fine to have kids and partners saying hello on video calls. I think it’s given us all a better insight into each other’s lives and made us closer as we all go through this.

Some teams have even started doing ‘entertainment’ sessions. So far slots have included a magic show (the card tricks were a little tricky on-line), a yoga class, a pub quiz and even a classical music piano recital.

Ensuring everyone still feels connected

Finally, it’s important to remember that some people might not join in with the ‘opportunities’ we have created, and might ‘go off radar’. So I personally message everyone in the company every few days or so to say hello, share some information but most importantly check in with them, so nobody is at risk of slipping from view.

Sometimes the gentle kindness of a simple “are you ok?” is all that’s needed.

This article first appeared on the MAD World website. MAD stands for Make A Difference.

Rich Roberts
People Director