Pip's BCorp Blog, Week One.
It’s now a year since COVID-19 swept through the world; a year of lockdowns and a year of adjusting to this ‘new normal’. And if the last year has taught me anything it’s the importance of community and that connection with others is the most valuable thing we possess and must work to retain. Which is why being part of the Bcorp community has been so powerful and why this March, Pip & Nut is joining the voices of our fellow Bcorp’s to shout about why we believe using business as a force for good is the future. We will be sharing some of the work we are doing to give transparency of our business and hopefully inspire other businesses too.
The team is the heart of any business so, given the context, ensuring the Pip & Nut family is supported has been my number one focus over the past year. It feels apt that my first blog this month is about sharing some of the ways we ensure we have a healthy and happy team including how we have adjusted to the collision of work with home life with CV-19 and some of the things we still need to improve.
Getting the basics right
It’s easy to implement great perks for your team but overlook the simple things which make work something you love. At Pip & Nut we’ve always emphasised the importance of making sure people take regular holidays, avoid weekend and late evening work and lunch hours are used for eating lunch, not work. When we were in the office this was much easier to enforce and it would have been unusual, for instance, to see people sitting at their desk at 1pm instead of crowding round our kitchen table. However, with the move to remote working bad habits have slowly crept in. The main cause: people feeling they need to be always online, less boundaries with work and home and relentless back-to-back zoom calls all day resulting in ever growing to-do lists and tired eyes!
To fix this, we implemented a weekly flow to provide more structure to the working week. It allows people to feel more in control and fundamentally it helps embed within our team a culture that is about outputs, not hours worked, that lead to success. So how does the weekly flow work? We’ve split the week in two, with the start of the week focussed on internal aligning and reporting and the middle/end of the week focussed on external meetings and future planning. Within the week we’ve blocked out two mornings, titled ‘Monk Mornings’, whereby the team switch off slack, emails and enforce a strictly no zoom meeting time to focus on getting on with the to-do list. To allow people to utilise our flexi time policy (our team can start early or late with the implementation of 10am – 4pm core office hours) we’ve also got a no meeting rule at the start and end of the day. And finally, to reduce overall meetings in our diaries, we’re getting strict as to what the purpose, outcome, structure and timing is for every meeting and encouraging people to say ‘no’ if they don’t need to attend.
With one in six British workers affected by mental health problems like anxiety, depression and stress every year at work, it is crucial as a business that we look more closely at the role we play in supporting the wellbeing of our team at work. Add to this the pressure that COVID-19 has placed on our team with increased feelings of isolation, anxiety and burnout, it became an even more urgent issue for us to tackle. This started with a Mental Health Plan which included a commitment to our team:
“Ensure everyone feels they can contribute to the conversation about mental health without being judged, to create an open culture where you feel supported and are able to bring your full selves to work”
The plan focuses on six key areas that include having a clear plan, promoting a culture to remove stigma, offering support to those suffering, improving organisational design, training and increased transparency. So far, we have implemented an employee assistance programme with Sanctus and Vitality, provided training for managers to better understand their role in spotting and supporting a direct report, committed to ensuring we have one mental health first aider for every 10 team members, improved the quality of our 1-2-1s so managers actively ask team members how they are and started to encourage more conversations on mental health around the wider team with dedicated slack channels. There is still more we can do but we’re on a path to ensuring we treat mental health no differently from physical health and remove any stigma associated.
Learning & Development
Feeling like you are learning something new not only helps ensure we’re all on a continuous learning journey, but it’s also been proven to help improve our mental health. One of the simplest things you can do is ensure that as a team you cultivate an environment where people share both positive and constructive feedback that flows up and down the business.
On top of this we’ve implemented three threads to our learning and development programme with the ambition that as a team we increase the amount of learning we do each year. Each year our team have a dedicated individual fund of £500 to invest in courses, books and workshops aligned to their professional development plans. On top of this we’ve partnered with a training provider, YCN, to give our whole team access to short courses on an always on basis. The second thread is structured around team learning sessions. These are sessions where we come together as a whole team to learn something new on a topic relevant for the everyone in the business. An example from last year was a half day course on ‘Productivity & Managing Energy’, as we adjusted to remote working, and this year we will be engaging in diversity and inclusion training. And finally, we have also introduced peer to peer learning, or as we call it squirrel to squirrel learning where our team share their skills and knowledge to other members of the team. Courses have included digital marketing, excel and PowerPoint masterclasses. And thanks to zoom we’re able to record them for future reference!
Like with your mental health, your physical health is something you actively have to manage and maintain and as we all become much more static working from home it’s something which requires dedicated time. Aside from encouraging our team to take breaks at lunch to exercise or flex their hours to enable people to exercise before or after work, we’ve also provided tools to help people be more active.
One of the highlights of last year was our virtual wellness week where we hosted a programme of activities to encourage our team to introduce healthy routines into their day whether that be mid-afternoon squat-offs, water drinking competitions to morning yoga. Not all of it stuck but certainly provided a bit of respite from lockdown.
On top of this, we also provided a fund for our team to ensure that their office setups were suitable whether that be proper desks and chairs. Sounds simple but it took a while for some of us to realise that working from home wasn’t going to be a flash in the pan and we need to ensure we’ve got a suitable workspace.
And finally, as an ongoing benefit we also offer private health care via Vitality. Vitality offers several member discounts to brands such as Peloton, subsidises gym membership to encourage our team to be more active, and provides a service to tap into should they fall ill.
Financial Benefits for All
And finally benefits. Whilst a big draw for our team is working for a business that balances people, planet & profit, income is an important factor in ensuring that people feel secure and can support themselves. Last year, we made a commitment to become a Living Wage Employer (application pending) ensuring that everyone, including interns, are paid the London Living Wage. We also made the move to ensure that all permanent employees have a bonus so that everyone is incentivised and rewarded for the success of the business. All pay and remuneration are approved by our Board and we are mindful to keep the multiple between the highest earners and lowest earners as low as possible. There is still work to be done and this year one of our goals is to implement an employee ownership programme so that every member of the team has share options.
Ultimately, the success of our business is in the hands of my team. I want to build a team that is connected, supportive and thriving. We are a team of twenty now and as we grow our challenge will be to maintain our strong culture. I believe that with the strong foundations we have in place already and by continuing to put our people at the centre of everything we do, we can continue to grow as a business we all feel proud to be part of.