Looking out for our team while they look out for you

Mental_health_blog_v2

Our energy specialists come to work every day to help customers.

Our team's most important job - the thing they're best at - is genuinely speaking to customers, human to human.

On a typical day, we talk to around 40,000 customers across phone calls, email and social media. That's always included some people in really difficult situations. In the energy crisis we're receiving more heartbreaking messages and calls than ever before.

It's a reminder of how crucial our energy specialists' work really is: giving reassurance and real help to customers in difficult circumstances, whether that's direct support from our £5 million Octopus Assist fund, help accessing various government schemes, or other unique Octopus offers like heat-loss spotting thermal cameras or free electric blankets.

It can be an incredibly tough job.

It's the job I started in at Octopus, and still do a bit of – so I wanted to write about all the ways our team are looking after one another through the crisis, making sure the same amount of care and support we give our customers is also available to our people.

We know people all across the country are dealing with unbelievable challenges right now.

If you are struggling please, please don't hesitate to get in touch. We're here to help as best we can.

How we can help if you're struggling to pay

Read about your options in the energy crisis

Reach out to one of our team

In 2020 our lives got turned upside down

While other suppliers shut off their phone lines, we were here for customers throughout. No one at Octopus was put on furlough or laid off.

The pandemic has taken a massive mental toll on everyone, no matter their background or current circumstances.

This prompted a group of Octopus staff to join forces and become 'Wellness Heroes', finding new ways to support their teammates mental health at work.

A photo of Lynne Higgins

Head of Operations and trained psychotherapist Lynne was one who got that ball rolling at Octopus.

She also happens to be one of our first 'Digital Operations' team members – our brilliant digital team who worked from home remotely and flexibly long before it was cool.

She shares why it's so important to prioritise mental health in the workplace:

"At the beginning of the pandemic, it quickly became apparent that people across the business were struggling. We were worried, particularly considering many of the normal mental health services were unavailable. People couldn’t even go to the gym and meet up with friends to cope with stress and socialise, so we spent a lot of time thinking about ways we could look after people."

Our people aren't just nameless employees who show up to work.

They are human beings who we want to help be the best versions of themselves.

Lynne Higgins, head of operations

"A lot of people at Octopus have reached out to me to tell me this is the first time they have worked for a company that truly supported them, and I am very proud of that".

office photo

Listening Ears

A Listening Ear session with Dee

A Listening Ear session with Dee

Lynne kickstarted an amazing idea: match people who are struggling to an Octopus volunteer who could offer personal support and help, whether it was work-related or not.

As of 2022, Listening Ear now has 70+ volunteers across every part of the business.

"Every Listening Ear session is different. Sometimes someone will reach out for a one-off chat because they have had a difficult day and with some others, I've had regular sessions with for the past 2 years.

We have supported people through different stages of their lives and career and I always make sure to check in on people semi-regularly just in case they need further support.

People can pick their own Listening Ear so they feel totally comfortable."

Lynne Higgins
headspace app

Headspace

Anyone in our team who needs a bit more support can access therapy from licensed professionals through Headspace.

Wellness Wednesdays

Energy specialist Beth Boulter started off Wellness Wednesdays as a casual team get-together. It went down so well, it turned into a weekly slot in the calendar, typically involving a 30-60 minute check-in session where people could vent or just chat about how they're feeling, ending with pizza and a feel-good movie.

The sessions have been popping up all over the company. It’s a great way for people from every team and level of Octopus to share their experiences and foster a sense of connection and friendship.

I asked Beth to tell us more about what inspired the weekly sessions:

"My passion has always been mental health. When I first started working I often felt lonely, and it wasn’t until I went way out of my comfort zone to get to know people that I started to open up about the things I was going through.

Creating that space for people within the company is so important to me. The main thing we’re hoping to achieve is for people to know they are not alone, and there is always support available. We get a lot of positive feedback and it makes me emotional knowing we've helped even one person.

Mental health is one of the great equalisers so it’s really impactful to honour that and be there for people."

Team meditation

A photo of Dee

Our own Dee Dee, Emergency specialist and all-round legend, happens to be a clinical hypnotherapist and meditation expert alongside her work at Octopus.

She puts on regular virtual meditation sessions for the team.

They're very casual affairs – Dee follows a loose approach, and the main purpose is to meet people’s needs on any given day. They're totally non-work related and the goal is simply for people to relax and take a moment out of their busy days to prioritise their mental health.

Dee Dee tells us all about her involvement with Wellness at Octopus:

"With my background and experience it made perfect sense for me to get involved with the mental health programmes at Octopus. Meditation has a lot of mental health and stress related benefits and I love being able to provide this service, free of charge, to people in the comfort of their own homes.

I have never heard of a company doing this much work to support the team, and I've had wonderful feedback from people who have told me how the sessions have helped them.

Taking care of your mental health has a domino effect on the rest of your life, and the people around you.

The truth is, we actually care. Not just as a company that wants to ensure people are able to work - but as a group of people that are truly invested in the health and wellbeing of the people we work with."

Dee Dee
A Zoom Meditation class in session
A Zoom Meditation class in session

A Zoom Meditation class in session

Healing Hub: stress management training and expert talks

We work with Route 66 to put on tailored stress management training for our team.

The sessions include breathing and physical exercises to decrease stress. Learning the right techniques can have a transformational effect on your wellbeing.

We've also invited guest speakers for Mental Health Awareness Week. This year, we heard from Jonny Benjamin MBE, author of The Stranger on the Bridge: My Journey from Despair to Hope, to give an inspirational talk and create a space to discuss mental health.

Physical health and exercise

We hold twice weekly remote and in-person yoga classes.

Yoga has proven benefits to mental health and quality of life and many Octo team members tune in every week.

We also offer free access to Movespring, and 20% off UK Gyms to make it easier for people to stay active whilst nurturing their bodies and minds.

Spread a little love around

screenshot of #be-kind slack channel with handwritten customer letter

A handwritten customer letter

#Be-Kind is a slack channel that's a guaranteed pick-me-up

One of the most important things we do at Octopus is taking the time to celebrate each other's successes.

This channel was created purely to spread joy and happiness across the company – an endless feed of lovely messages from our customers and colleagues. It's our way of giving one another virtual high-fives whilst sharing the love we get from customers and showing the impact we're having on peoples lives.

screenshot from #be-kind with some kind words for a colleague

Kind words for a colleague

From the #be-kind slack channel: A lovely handwritten thank you card from a customer

A lovely handwritten 'thank you' card from a customer

A note on how we work at Octopus

All the specialised support I've shared here is important, but the most fundamental way we make sure we're happy and healthy at work is through our unique company culture.

We've always been a business founded on principles of freedom and responsibility. Our holiday policy is incredibly flexible so our hard-working people can take the time away they need.

We also don't have an HR department – rather notoriously, thanks to the BBC's interview with our CEO 'My billion pound company doesn't have an HR department'.

This doesn't mean we just ignore the important tasks involved in a HR function. We have an ethos of taking responsibility. Rather than making it someone else's problem, our managers are expected to take on these responsibilities themselves; they are the ones who help their teams when they are in need. This keeps them connected to the realities and challenges our people are facing.

We take the same de-centralised approach to mental health.

We talk more about this on the Inside Octopus Energy podcast episode on Culture.

Team leader Amy explains more:

"As a team leader we're always aware of mental health; the team know they can approach me or any other leader at any time if they're struggling. I have regular check-ins and coffee mornings so people can talk about anything they need. I also make sure to have monthly catch ups with the whole team to gauge if there is anything more we can do to offer specific support.

When someone in the team is struggling, we'll of course offer things like Listening Ear sessions, but it’s also about being practical – giving people a breather, and space to focus and get back to what they do best: helping customers"

These support systems are just some of the ways we look after our wonderful hard-working team while they look after our customers.

They are the heart and soul of our business, and the only reason we can keep supporting more than 3 million customers around the UK through a once-in-a-generation energy crisis.

Taking care of others is crucial, but you can't do it without taking care of yourself.

Published on 6th April 2022 by:

image of Samsam Farah

Samsam Farah

Writer

Hey I'm Constantine, welcome to Octopus Energy!

×