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Giffgaff CEO on how the business is adapting to hybrid work

The pandemic has fundamentally changed work but as we move into a new hybrid world there is still no clear vision of how this future will work in practice. Here, Giffgaff CEO Ash Schofield explains how the mobile operator has adapted to hybrid working.

Giffgaff offices

Giffgaff was born as a digital-first business back in 2009 but the pandemic still required some adjustment. We moved quickly and seamlessly to remote working, thanks to our operations team, which had done all the planning in the background to make sure that our systems were robust enough for home working.

As the weeks went on, we had to think of ways to keep the magic of Giffgaff’s culture alive. For example, we’ve continued our Monday morning huddles using Zoom. We pushed the tool to its limits and took some of the habits that we used to do in person into the online space.

Working from home can be quite an isolating experience, so we’ve made some adjustments as well. Our team of volunteer mental health first-aiders have been looking out for our colleagues with regular calls, because it’s much harder to tell if someone’s struggling when you’re not seeing them in person any more. 

When the chance came to reopen the office in July last year, we took it. Our observation was that there were people working from home and others who were at home, trying to work. For various reasons, some of our team have had to deal with different distractions while working remotely, so we wanted to get the office open as quickly as possible for those people. 

We’ve always promoted flexibility and if we want to deliver it for our members then we need to embrace it internally too. There’s no way that we could order people to come back to the office when they have worked so well remotely. We had quite an exceptional year both financially and in terms of rewards and recognition, so it  would feel quite disingenuous of me to say, ‘you’ve all got to come back to the office’ because it’s clearly working.

While the restrictions have been lifted, we haven’t seen a huge behavioural shift. At the moment we’re seeing 20 to 50 people back in the office out of a total of 200. And I think by next year, once society is better adapted to living with the virus, the average could be about 50 to 100.

Despite the lower numbers, we are not planning to get rid of the office or downsize. Instead, I’m asking myself whether we can organise it in a different way to facilitate hybrid working. One way could be through the introduction of discrete pods, so people can hold Zoom calls without distracting those around them.

Some of the other changes will be more behavioural. We’ll have to be increasingly aware of what other colleagues are doing in the office space and will have to manage meeting agendas accordingly to make sure those that are at home can still have an equal presence.

Over the next few months we will need to constantly learn and listen to the experiences of all people, both in the office and at home, to see how we can adjust and develop our behaviours to make sure we continue to improve on our hybrid model. We went into lockdown with a really strong culture and it’s now stronger than ever, so we start this next chapter on a very strong footing.

As told to Sam Forsdick