Changing focus

Changing focus


The ongoing pandemic has brought many leadership challenges, and not all related to finance. In the first of a new series, Three UK’s chief people officer, Mark Redmond, writes about leading through a pandemic and how the idea of paying it forward is driving the company’s new wellbeing strategy

Over the past 12 months, one thing which has united people across the length and breadth of the country is the desire, and need, to stay connected with loved ones throughout the pandemic.

That’s something we know a lot about at Three, as our number one priority is to provide better connectivity every day, for every customer. Everything we do is about working towards that goal, and the past year has shown that this is more important than ever.

We firmly believe that to deliver for our customers, it’s absolutely essential that Three colleagues are supported in what they do, day in, day out.

It’s safe to say that there have been obstacles for everyone throughout this pandemic and looking after my colleagues at Three has been front of mind for me as chief people officer.

The switch to remote working – even though it’s become the ‘new norm’ – hasn’t always been plain sailing. It tends to blur the boundary between work life and home life so when coronavirus restrictions were introduced, we quickly reviewed our wellbeing strategy at Three to reflect how we work.

Prioritising wellness is tough in a busy, fast-paced environment, so we developed clear boundaries for our colleagues so they would avoid feeling burnt out.

Some of these steps included simple things like taking a ‘virtual commute’ - whether that’s a walk, run or cycle before work – making time for a lunch break, and ensuring good meeting etiquette to keep video call fatigue to an absolute minimum. In fact, we have been actively encouraging our colleagues to do some meetings on the move. After all, research has shown that walking can help generate new ideas and can boost creativity by 60%.

We launched a partnership with Headspace, the leading mindfulness and meditation app to reduce stress. Through that, we have run a series of challenges and interactive sessions which people can do from home. This has encouraged Three employees to integrate a sense of calm into their busy lives with topics covering health, anxiety, sleep, happiness, work and productivity.

However, we’re not only focusing on meditation and mindfulness. With a section dedicated to exercise, in February we encouraged everyone to get involved in 28 days of physical activity, with video workouts to help release stress.

This focus continued throughout March with our Spring into Wellbeing programme, offering a range of activities to improve head-space and reconnect with colleagues. It included everything from laughter yoga to Zumba, and even a couch to 5K programme with a virtual personal trainer.

To coincide with our new charity partnership with Samaritans, we’re also encouraging people to sign up to the Samarathon in July which involves running, jogging or walking 26.2 miles over the month of July.

At the end of last year, we consulted with our employees about what issues they wanted Three UK to get involved in and mental health was high on the agenda, which is one of the major reasons we decided on this partnership.

While our mission is about providing better connectivity, and we do this through investing in our network, we believe that connectivity is also about creating human connections. By working with Samaritans, we hope to take an important step in this, delivering support to those who need it most, especially when the pandemic has had a profound impact on the UK population’s mental health.

We want our people to know that we care about their wellbeing and that we value their views. In recent months, we consulted on our future of work plans for hybrid working and core hours to ensure our people have flexibility on how, when and where they work.

Going forward, as restrictions ease, we’re going to encourage our colleagues to view our new office at Green Park in Reading as a hub to use in combination with home working, rather than somewhere they have to show up five days a week. Our aim is to retain the social ‘culture’ of the office, allowing informal spontaneous connections, while enabling people to work effectively from home and connect virtually day-to-day.

Despite the challenges and obstacles that have often seemed insurmountable over the past 12 months, we don’t want to let go of the learnings. At Three, we’re determined to emerge from this pandemic stronger and closer than ever. So, while we may be together physically less often, when we do meet in person, it will be with more purpose than ever.

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