Pure Planet: Where Kindness and Wellbeing Are Embedded at the Heart of Company Culture
19th May, 2020
A business with a purpose
Pure Planet’s purpose is to make renewable energy affordable and available to all, creating a Britain that is powered by clean, green energy.
We’re an independent company, founded in 2017 and run by friends. The philosophy of the three founders, to put ‘purpose for people’ at the core of running the business has laid the foundation for our engaging culture. We now employ 100 people.
We were delighted to recently be ranked number two in the Sunday Times Top 100 Best Small Companies to Work for 2020 and ranked the best overall company to work for in the South West.
From day one, the 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.
In the words of our CEO, Andrew Ralston, “At Pure Planet we want to create an environment where our team enjoy their time at work and feel fulfilled; where they feel valued and can see the contribution they make. Where we are kind to one another. We want people to look forward to coming to work and to feel confident they can be themselves. This includes being able to talk openly about 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 strongly 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.
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
Key to this is ensuring that senior managers are leading the way, especially when it comes to mental health. Our leaders 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 okay to talk to somebody about whatever they need to, and that they won’t be singled out or risk promotion as a result. We want people to know they’ll be treated with acceptance and kindness.
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 it’s actually turned into a wellbeing ‘initiative’.
We didn’t want a traditional classroom-based approach involving painful role play and stressful group exercises. We wanted a format, and environment, that would provide a solid foundation to understand one another’s strengths--and also what our limitations and learning needs are. We wanted it to be all about self-discovery, fostering teamwork and to end in action planning.
The best way to achieve these goals we decided would be outdoors, a ‘walk and talk’ in the open countryside. Everyone was invited to attend and we split the team up over six 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. People mixed together from various departments.
Each person was invited to self-reflect at various rest stops and, while 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 with 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 EAP 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 Covid-19
Our focus on wellbeing and our people’s mental health really paid off 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. School closures have added an enormous extra challenge for our team members with 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, staff are having 11am virtual coffee breaks with people from across the business and every week we have a video company meeting–100 people log 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 employee individually, to check in and see that everyone is ok. All 100 people. Personally. A simple, cost-free act of kindness that pays dividends.
It’s okay to ask for help
Our culture of speaking openly about mental health, fostered directly by our founders, ensures that our people know it’s okay to ask for help. And they can have confidence that the business will be responsive, supportive, kind 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.
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, 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 a simple token of kindness, an “are you ok?” is all that’s needed.
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Richard Roberts is an employee engagement and culture specialist and is passionate about building highly motivated and productive teams in both start-ups and larger organisations. Formerly HR Director and Head of Employee Engagement at Virgin Mobile, he is currently the People Director at sustainable energy provider Pure Planet on a part time basis. He also runs employee engagement consultancy, enRich. He presents at UK and international conferences on the topics of employee engagement, culture and employer branding, drawing on his experiences at Virgin Mobile, Pure Planet and other organisations.