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by Greg Nathan

last updated 12/03/2020

Greg Nathan is founder of the Franchise Relationships Institute, a speaker at franchise events world-wide and author of several books on franchising.

Tips for working from home

by Greg Nathan

last updated 12/03/2020

Greg Nathan is founder of the Franchise Relationships Institute, a speaker at franchise events world-wide and author of several books on franchising.

13 March 2020 – As health concerns mean more people choose or are required to work from home, Greg Nathan of the Franchise Relationships Institute offers some advice to help you stay connected

Working from home can present challenges and opportunities

The team at the Franchise Relationships Institute have been productively working from our homes for nearly 10 years. Given a number of you and your teams are likely to also be working from home over the coming months (as part of Coronavirus prevention) I'll share some tips below that have worked for us. While we are a team of nine, the first three tips are relevant to workgroups of up to fifteen people.

1. Start each day with an online virtual team huddle. It's important to start the day focused and positive, so every morning at 9.00am sharp we have a team meeting. We take turns to run these meetings, which means there's a sense of group ownership. Each meeting runs for a specified time, between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on its purpose (see #3 below). Meetings also start with a fun question to ensure everyone is engaged, such as What made you laugh over the weekend? What's your energy number from 1 to 10? What is something you feel good about that happened this week? If you were an animal what would you be and why?

2. Always use cameras and ensure everyone has good internet. Cameras are mandatory for all meetings to recreate the live team feel. It's amazing the difference it makes when people can see each other's faces. For this reason, it is vital that everyone has fast connection speeds so you can see and hear clearly. It's frustrating for the rest of the team if people are dropping out or are garbled. Thorough security protocols and virus protection – the technology sort – is of course also important for safely and efficiently accessing files and data online. We provide our team with a technology allowance to ensure they sign up for a good quality data plan.

3. Have a defined meeting rhythm. In addition to keeping the human connections alive, it's important to have a focus for each meeting. Also to ensure everyone has clear goals and KPIs. For instance, on Mondays we review our business and personal metrics from the previous week, and our goals for the coming week. Tuesdays we discuss expected sales and review key projects. Wednesdays we read through our values, and people are invited to share an example of how they or someone on the team has practised one of these, and so on. Plus people are encouraged to share any "need to knows" or areas where they are stuck so others can chip in to help. You should create your own meeting rhythm that's relevant to your business. Well-run meetings will help you to maintain your culture.

4. Have a professional, clear working space. While it's best to have a dedicated desk in a separate room, this may not be possible. If you have to work from the kitchen table or a shared living space, create a clear area so you can focus. And put away your work stuff when you're finished. I personally think it is best to have some formality in your work area, and that slouching on the couch is not a great idea. Also, respect your family's needs. Just as you don't want your partner or kids interrupting your work or meetings with their chatter or play, they also aren't going to appreciate you interrupting their chatter or play with your work or meetings! Consult with the family over what's reasonable in terms of respecting everyone's space and managing the natural noise of daily life.

5. Have a transition ritual. For most people, the commute home offers a transition from a work to a home mindset. If you are already home it's helpful to have a specific activity that you do to signal the end of the workday. For me it's going for a run in the park with my buddy, Leo the cavoodle. Some people like to spend time in the garden, do a work-out, play with the kids, jam on a musical instrument, or cook a meal. As a rule of thumb, a good transition ritual stretches your mind a little and is fun. By the way, daily transition rituals have been found to be better than one-off holidays for keeping a sense of balance in your life.

6. Create an open feed for your team. We encourage people to communicate using messages on a group feed about what's happening throughout the day, especially when they have small wins, need a hand with a challenge, or something funny happens. Emojis, GIFs, and corny puns are encouraged, and the stream of comments that ebb and flow is often hilarious. This is equivalent to the spontaneous chatter that occurs in an office when someone wanders to get a drink. We also have multiple feeds for different project groups so people aren't subjected to updates that aren't relevant to them. 

7. Look after your energy. This final tip is relevant to us all, whether we're working from home or not. It is a scientific fact that stress and tiredness suppress our immune systems and make us more vulnerable to colds and viruses. So in addition to physical common sense strategies such as having adequate exercise, sleep, personal hygiene and veggies, here's a few mental tips to keep your vitality up. Be calm, be grateful, be kind to others, focus on what's going well, talk to a friend if something's on your mind, and stay connected to your sense of purpose.

The next few months are going to test us all, and for some businesses it's going to be tough. We wish you well and, if you are new to working from home, we hope these tips have been useful. While our physical connections may be minimised for a time, there's no reason why we can't keep our emotional connections alive and well.

Greg Nathan is founder of the Franchise Relationships Institute, a speaker at franchise events world-wide and author of several books on franchising.

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