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Flexibility, determination helped Alabama Power adapt during the pandemic

Alabama Power recently released its second annual Corporate Sustainability Report, outlining the company’s continued progress in supporting the needs of customers and the communities it serves. The 2021 report provides a broad recap of the company’s accomplishments over the past year, based on Alabama Power’s five pillars of sustainability: People, Environment, Social Responsibility, Governance and Innovation.

“Alabama Power is constantly adapting to meet the challenges and opportunities of the times, while supporting our founding commitment to be of service to the state. And as our story evolves, so does how we share it,” said Stephanie Cooper, vice president of Corporate Sustainability.

This month, Alabama NewsCenter is sharing five stories from the report, highlighting the company’s five pillars of sustainability. Today’s story focuses on People:

Alabama Power 2021 Corporate Sustainability Report: People from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Throughout 2021, the pandemic continued to disrupt regular routines, at home and the office. While some companies were forced to shut down or curtail operations, Alabama Power was categorized as an “essential business” by our state because of the service we provide. This allowed us the flexibility to adapt to new ways to safely serve customers without interruption. We created protocols for working in the pandemic, while developing plans for employees to do their jobs remotely and to responsibly reenter the workplace when the time came – both of which were critical in maintaining a sustainable approach to our work.

“We’ve been in uncharted territory and we’ve really had to rethink a lot of things,” said Jean Lynch, Human Resources director at Alabama Power. “During the pandemic, some employees worked remotely, but we still had a large portion of our employees working on-site and in the field, so we developed protocols to keep them safe in those environments.”

That included sanitizing stations and masking, as well as alternating work schedules and virtual meetings to minimize the amount of time people were physically together. Lynch said, “Our facilities group never stopped working. They maintained our HVAC systems, our water systems. They enhanced cleaning and sanitization. They did walk-throughs to ensure social distancing was available and put up barriers to ensure that our No. 1 priority of keeping everyone safe was achieved.”

Power Delivery and Generation employees continued to safely keep the lights on across Alabama. Distribution Control Center Supervisor Candice Williamson and her team are used to managing unforeseen circumstances; they are among the people responsible for helping restore service following storms and during unexpected service disruptions – whenever they occur. But working from home was something new. “We’ve never experienced teleworking,” Williamson said.

“Serving our customers is always our first priority from a control center and power delivery standpoint,” Williamson continued. “We were thrown some obstacles, but we worked together as a team. The field employees, Distribution and Transmission, the generating plants, everybody just came together and worked as a team to provide that reliable service to our customers that we’re known for.”

With in-person touch points like our Customer Service and retail Appliance Centers, we provided access consistent with guidelines set forth by both the state and federal governments. “We put up extra sanitizing stations throughout the office,” said Customer Service Manager Natalie Bailey. “We put up crowd barriers and Plexiglass, and even provided a device for handling money back and forth to customers.”

In the appliance centers, Retail Sales Consultant Queen Johnson and her team faced a unique challenge. “Never in a million years would I have thought I would be selling appliances from home. We had to adapt. Within a week’s time, we set up to work remotely and walk customers through how to buy appliances from their homes.” The stores eventually reopened − safely and securely.

In August 2021, a pilot program enabled employees who had been working remotely to begin returning to their normal work locations. And by November, we were ready to fully reopen the doors and implement a larger plan of hybrid and on-site working schedules.

Through this unprecedented time, we evolved in the pursuit of sustainable work processes. Lynch said, “When we think about sustainability in the long term, I think the lessons learned have shown us that we can really be flexible, innovative and creative with the way we get our work done. It allows us to ensure that we’ve got stability in our operations. We’re able to continue to keep our plants running. We’re able to keep the lights on for the customers that we serve.”

This story originally appeared in the Alabama Power 2021 Corporate Sustainability Report, which was released on Earth Day 2022. Learn more at