My Working Day: Emma Horsfall on “driving digital confidence” during COVID-19
From teaching sign language to colleagues to supporting the LGBTQ+ community, Emma Horsfall from Barclays’ Relationship Support team tells us how working life has changed since the start of the coronavirus crisis – and the “bits and pieces” that make her proud of what she does.
My alarm goes off… around 6:30 in the morning and I’m up and away. I quickly check emails, get dressed, get a coffee, and see to Bucky, the dog. Then I turn on my laptop to start work. I am surrounded by miles of lovely farm fields, with a nature reserve on one side, a village on the other, and paths running between – so there are plenty of places to walk the doggo.
Before the pandemic, my job involved… teaching sign language to colleagues from different areas of the bank, so they could communicate with deaf customers. In my first role at Barclays as a community banker, a deaf customer used to come into the branch, and I always felt rude writing instructions down on paper. So I went to night school and learned sign language. The Digital Eagles found out about the work I was doing and asked me to join their team to train colleagues across Barclays to sign.
Since the start of the coronavirus crisis… I’ve worked with the Rapid Response team, which helps us drive digital confidence through the pandemic. To do that, we have to make sure colleagues have expert support at all times, especially when things go wrong. So they reach out to us and we help them resolve any errors or queries. The Digital Eagles operate the desk six days a week.
In my current role… I look after the people that cannot be helped with existing support available. These might be customers who are suicidal, in severe financial distress, homeless, or survivors of domestic abuse. Sometimes we offer help through welfare checks, additional support within Barclays, or from external groups and charities. You need to be resilient and look at every person as an individual – not as a disability or vulnerability. It’s a very rewarding job.
I get to speak to colleagues who are struggling and might be frustrated. The joy I feel when I can solve their problems and help our customers – it’s a satisfying feeling.
Barclays Relationship Support team
I’m also supporting customers… with all sorts of other bits and pieces. We’ve helped parents with home schooling through Code Playground, and we’ve been doing a lot with care homes – donating tablets and running digital sessions so people can stay connected to loved ones while they're separated. We always try to include loads of people in everything we do.
One of my proudest achievements was… being involved with the transgender taskforce, a working group set up as part of Barclays’ diversity and inclusion agenda. We looked at everything we did as a company in relation to the LGBTQ+ community and we started righting the wrongs – like adding the gender-neutral ‘Mx’ to our HR titles – right down to the uniforms.
I never felt comfortable wearing a neck scarf – I wanted to wear a tie but was told that was a man's uniform. We were able to change the rule about gender specific uniforms and when I told my manager about our success, he took off his tie and gave it to me. I took a picture of myself wearing it and posted it on LinkedIn. Suddenly people started reaching out, thanking me, saying they couldn’t wait to order their new uniforms. They were coming out their shells, saying: ‘This is me’.
The thing I love most about my job… is connecting with people I wouldn’t normally work with. I get to speak to colleagues who are struggling and might be frustrated. The joy I feel when I can solve their problems and help our customers – it’s a satisfying feeling.
My best day at work since the pandemic… was when Rapid Response became available to everybody. I finally had my office and all my systems set up at home, and I was able to start helping colleagues and customers. Every single person commented how grateful they were that we were there to help them.
The most difficult part of my job is… working from home. My husband, daughter and son-in-law weren't allowed to work for three months during the first UK lockdown, but I worked every single day. I can't wait to be able to go out and be around people again.
During the third UK lockdown… my team has been coping with daily WebEx meetings, where we sit and talk about our day and the cases we have worked on. We’ve also hosted quiz nights, online fitness classes to help us stay active – and even a virtual walk from one colleague’s house to the next, allowing us to learn about the beauty that the UK holds.
I have been so proud of how Barclays has cared for its staff during all of the lockdowns, and how it has continued to support its customers. There always seems to be something going on. Most importantly I don’t think any of us have felt alone – a colleague is only a call away. Even now, former teammates shoot messages to check in on me. I think perhaps one of the best things to come out of all the lockdowns is the sense of friendship and community.
Before I joined Barclays… I was a manager for McDonald’s. I always held bankers in high esteem – I thought they were so respected, that you’d have to be amazing to be a banker. I never thought I could be one of them. Since joining, I've realised it doesn't matter what background you’ve got, as long as you have passion for the job. That’s all you need.
After work… I have an obsession with organising. All my wardrobes and drawers are fully Marie Kondo-ed. My daughter finally let me do her wardrobe – and it was the best week ever.