How we got through the first year of lockdown at Pure Planet

Friday, 26 March 20216 minute read
Pure Planet

We banned Zoom meetings in the middle of every day; walked to Lapland for Christmas; and made time to really look out for one another

Twelve months ago precisely, Marc, our Head of Community, packed his bag after a good day in our Pure Planet office. He knew it’d be the last time he’d do this for a while: our Prime Minister had announced that everyone should work from home if they could. As Marc left his desk he turned to his colleague Jo and said: “well, I'll probably see you in June”. Little did he know that this would likely be June 2021, not June 2020.

Marc, Jo, the rest of us — and around a third of Britain’s economy, one-time office workers — continue to work from their homes. It’s been a radical shift.

And, to be honest, it’s been a struggle. Sure, we’ve kept the company thriving — we’ve doubled in size during lockdown, created 70 new jobs, and we’ve continued to win accolades for our Member service. But this blog isn’t about those kinds of business measures and metrics. It’s about our people. Our emotions.

The big challenge through all the chaos and calamity of Covid has been in keeping all of our team motivated, engaged and feeling connected to Pure Planet. Emotions are important. They drive our sense of wellbeing and purpose, and help us feel engaged and supported with colleagues. And it’s been more important than ever, as we at Pure Planet — like so many communities across the world — have lost loved ones because of the pandemic during the past year.

We've always had flexible working, but we’ve never had every single member of our team working remotely all at the same time and for so long. Like so many other firms, we’ve had to work really hard on keeping everyone connected, involved, supported and cared for — as well as on our ‘day job’ of supplying our members with a great renewable energy service.

So, how have we done it? How have we managed to keep everyone together while everyone is so far apart?

For us, it starts with leadership. We now have far more frequent all-company meetings — digitally of course. People from different areas across our company share their news. Our three co-founders take more time to explain what’s going on with our wider business, across the industry, and future plans and services for our Members. They’re not afraid to get personal either, and will sometimes talk about some of the ups and downs they’ve faced through lockdown, too.

A regular ring-around from the management team to all of our team ensures everyone is ok. There’s also a monthly all-team survey which helps us keep in touch with the things people don’t want to mention to managers or in meetings. It's a great way to learn about what we can do better.

We’re trying to make it OK to say I'm not OK, to give people space, recognising that being stuck at home while working and while looking after families and children — also in very new ways — can be demanding. So our team is able to change their working hours to fit in with home, and take paid time off to look after their children when they’ve been homeschooling. We’ve supported and helped all those who have had any mental health issues with counselling. And we do regular ‘lunch and learns’ on wellbeing.

We’ve invested in software to keep work collaborative too. We’re big fans of Slack, Miro and Trello and we share documents easily with Google. This means we can think, share, and create together. We’ve been using online tools for non-work stuff too. We have groups chatting about pets, books, home schooling and even space exploration.

Constant video calls can be too much. Meetings are intentionally kept short to cover the key points.

And we’ve banned meetings from 12.30pm-2pm daily so people can take time out — get some space to think, do, exercise, have lunch and enjoy some peace and quiet. Those 90 minutes each day are sacrosanct and a Zoom-free zone. (Our CEO has set himself a target of walking one million steps in 40 days which he does during his lunchtime break).

In December, 53 of us virtually walked to Lapland to visit Santa. Everyday people logged their steps on a clever App and we tracked our journey through Europe. We arrived on 22 December just before Santa set off on his big annual trip.

Treats have kept flowing (don’t let these stop post lockdown) — brownies, advent calendars, flapjacks and vouchers for movie streaming have all kept people perked up, and celebrate when we passed 200,000 Members on Pure Planet — thank you dear Members. We even had a company-wide day off in November to thank everyone for all the efforts they had put in.

In January, we ran something called #20for21 “Beating the January Blues”. On each working day in January (there were 20), we launched a new initiative to make a positive change for our teams, company or wider society, things like:

  • An internal mentoring scheme
  • A volunteering programme to support local school children with literacy to help keep their education on track
  • A free wellbeing course
  • A new weekly online yoga class
  • A photo competition with a top prize of a weekend away in a Cotswold treehouse (yes, a treehouse — and for when lockdown ends obviously!)
  • Planting a tree for every employee

Finally, my favourite thing that we've done in the past 12 months is what we call our ‘Donut chats’. Team members are randomly matched with another team member each week to have a virtual coffee with. It’s gone down brilliantly. It’s such a simple thing, and gives people 20 minutes or so with another member of our team that they might not otherwise chat to. A real pep up and smile maker. Check out the Donut app.

So, even though the last year has been strange and by no means the easiest of years, we can’t help but see the positive side of it all. We’ve learnt new things, taken up new hobbies, made new (virtual) friends and helped make the world a more sustainable place. And we’re happy to have shared them with you here. Maybe there’s something we’ve done at Pure Planet which you could adopt in your company? And is there something you’ve done at your company that we could do at Pure Planet — do let us know.

Stay safe.

Rich Roberts
People Director