Better Managers Briefing: Ann Francke’s Homeworking Tips

Written by Ann Francke Tuesday 24 March 2020
Ann Francke

Dear All,

I hope you are doing as well as can be expected in this new working world. The beautiful sunshine across the UK this week creates quite a contrast to the situation we face. Yet the stricter guidelines make sense. Stay at home. Save lives. All managers should be reinforcing the importance of this to those they manage. And employers for all non-essential services must now permit their employees to work from home wherever possible.

Last Friday I shared CMI's top tips for working from home in a half hour webinar. For those of you who couldn't join, it's available on YouTube. But just to summarise my top points:

Be Virtually Visible. This means checking in with your team individually and collectively using video or voice technology - and not relying solely on email. Virtual collaboration tools such as google docs, hangout, Microsoft Teams and Zoom are all great to have here. If you or your folks aren’t comfortable using technology now is the time to learn - with the support of your IT colleagues of course (as an aside - it’s wonderful to see so many volunteer efforts directed towards helping older people keep in touch with loved ones via tablets and video links). As a rule, checking in at the beginning and end of every day is good practice. Have some less formal fun as well as regular meetings. You might start a team meeting wearing funny hats to lighten the mood, or try a “virtual cocktail hour” at the end of the week.

Manage Mental Health. Recognise this is a time of high anxiety for everyone. In addition to physical health concerns for themselves and loved ones, there are the financial pressures, job security issues and the general uncertainty and unease of a situation that will worsen in weeks to come. Make sure you are aware of this and act accordingly. Remember these considerations will impact people's productivity so expect things to be less buttoned up than before. Ask your team how they are. Plan-in regular breaks, outdoor activities (keeping 2 meters apart of course), and set clear boundaries for the beginning and end of each work day. Remind your team of employee assistance programmes, mental health first aiders and other resources your organisation may offer. And make sure you celebrate the small things - working to stay positive is vital in these times. We will be offering more advice on this in weeks to come. Meanwhile, the government is stepping in to help by offering unprecedented support for employers and employees. The latest government advice is available here.

Be Agile on Prioritisation. Things are changing all the time. Be prepared to change course quickly to adapt. New measures may be needed, programmes started or stopped, opportunities may emerge. Ensure you keep on top of and clearly communicate the changes to your team. And be prepared to take on projects you can complete virtually to replace those that you would need to travel for or do face to face.

Manage with a Human Face. This is perhaps the guiding principle overall. This is not the time to be barking orders or cutting peoples’ pay because their kids are off school. This is a time for empathy. “Lead from the human side” is what i told the FT’s Andrew Hill. I shared an anecdote about a video conference where a colleague’s young son passed him a note. When we asked what it said, he held it up to the camera. It read “I need a poo.” We all had a laugh at that one. Look for life’s simple joys and lighter moments. Remember, being human and considerate is everyone’s job - especially managers. If your shops are open make sure you take care of your staff by giving them protection. Companies that don't will face backlash from employees and customers alike.

Happily, there are many community volunteer programmes afoot - join them! Here’s a link where you can explore what’s available

Net - these are trying times, but we can manage through them better together. We will continue to offer you more tips and CMI resources to help you cope. We will share our newsletter every Tuesday and Friday, plus our Better Managers briefing every Friday afternoon at 1pm. Please share any questions or topics you'd like covered or information you think would help.


Stay Safe

Stay Strong

Stay in (virtual) Touch!

All the best,



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