Voices of Torchbox
There isn’t a rule book (yet) for becoming employee owned, or a guide to the best approach for moving forward; so we’re still finding our feet, testing and learning, to discover what works best for us.
It’s quite a cultural shift to go from having two people (plus a senior management team) in charge, to having a business collectively owned. Making decisions effectively and decisively is vital in a fast-moving business environment, so our company is still run day-to-day by our senior management team, but our elected board of employee trustees are now consulted on all important strategic decisions.
Employees are also able to share opinions and commit to initiatives that matter to them and work towards shared common goals through elected voice groups. Currently, we have three voice groups, made up of eight people each: Civic Engagement and Diversity, Climate Action, and Wellbeing. Each group has the authority to decide on new actions and priorities and has access to a fund that they can decide on how to use.
Included below, is a taste of some of the work they’ve been doing and goals they’re working towards.
Civic Engagement and Diversity
Making a difference in our communities and supporting underrepresented people
The civic engagement and diversity voice group aims to help Torchbox employees be active members of our communities; whether that’s in our local area, online spaces, professional communities, or the charitable and ‘for good’ sector we work in. They are also taking action to increase diversity at Torchbox.
During the pandemic it’s been a challenge to find ways for people to volunteer locally, especially in groups, so they have been sharing the opportunities that are available, and making plans for team civic engagement days in the future. They’ve also been shining a light on the amazing volunteering our colleagues already do; from helping Coders of Colour run workshops, to sleeping outside in November for homelessness charity 1625 Independent People.
They worked with our trustee directors to find ways for Torchbox to support Black Lives Matter and are committed to making our company a welcoming and safe place for people of colour, people with disabilities, neurodiverse people, women and gender non-conforming people, LGBTQ+ people, and other underrepresented groups.
With the challenges that 2020 has brought, I've found it tempting to focus purely on my own personal situation rather than being aware of what others might be going through. I joined the Civic Engagement group to learn from others as I seek practically to live out my own Christian faith and to encourage both myself and the Torchbox family to keep lifting our eyes up to see a world in need.Ben Heasman, Torchbox Delivery Manager
Committed to measuring and reducing our impact on climate change
Our climate action group leads on initiatives to help us reduce our impact on the environment and to live and operate more sustainably. They are measuring our emissions so that we can establish a benchmark and focus on the areas that will have the biggest impact.
They have been exploring long and short term initiatives and goals, and deciding on what action to prioritise (this is a marathon, not a race!). The group’s commitments are outlined in our new environment policy, including that we will:
- Reduce the carbon impact of the websites we build
- Not fly for business except where absolutely necessary
- Not profit from climate destruction
We are also delighted to now be supporting Trees for Life with their ambitions to rewild the Scottish Highlands, by planting a tree for everyone at Torchbox, every year, in our new Torchbox Grove.
Voice groups allow us a chance to really hold our company to its values, and to implement changes that make a difference. I’m in the climate voice group, because I think a commitment to reduce our emissions and play our part in combating climate change is one of the most important things we should be doing as a company.Helen Chapman, Torchbox Front-end Team Leader
Our Wellbeing Group works to create initiatives to support mental and physical health at work, and promote a good work-life balance
The Wellbeing Group was launched in February, so almost immediately their first area of focus became: Covid-19. They focused on the short term goal of helping people adapt to remote working, sharing workspace with home life, and managing the anxieties of a pandemic.
- Created an "It's OK" set of compassionate expectations around working during the pandemic
- Set up a buddy system to combat loneliness and isolation
- Created written guidance around the furlough scheme and reducing burnout with smarter use of online comms
- Run exercise and activity classes, like yoga and mindful drawing
- Provided SAD lamps to employees who requested them
- Asked for a better employee feedback mechanism (we're now using OfficeVibe to hear anonymous suggestions from employees)
These initiatives come directly from surveys and polls run with employees to learn what would help them manage their wellbeing. The group work closely with HR and our senior management team and pass on anonymous comments – for example, how people are feeling about a return to working together in an office. Their work advocates for changes in processes.
Given that many of us spend most of our day time hours at work, I feel strongly that supporting my colleagues to be healthy and happy is so important. Being part of the Wellbeing group is a chance to influence that. I have also enjoyed the opportunity to connect with workmates outside of my immediate project team.Anna Grieve, Torchbox Delivery Manager