Over the last 12 months, the move to remote work by knowledgeable workers is unmistakable. 

Obviously, remote work is on the rise — and not just because of COVID-19. This arrangement has been growing in popularity for years. It’s not hard to see why. Studies show that out-of-office work boosts productivity, saves employers money, and boosts staff happiness.

But remote work isn’t without its drawbacks. For example, how do you improve your remote 1:1s, AKA one-on-one meetings with individual employees, hosted via the internet?

In this article, we’ll explore seven tips for successful remote 1:1s so that you can effectively meet with your out-of-office staffers and get work done.

Tips to Help You Improve Remote 1:1s

Remote 1:1s are critical to the success of your distributed staff. Once you learn how to host them successfully, your team’s productivity and effectiveness will rise. Here are seven best practices for remote 1:1s that you can start using immediately.

1. Have a Plan

Carefully plan your remote 1:1s to make them more successful.

If you really want to improve your remote 1:1s, you need to go into them with a plan. That’s right, “winging it” usually isn’t a recipe for success in this area. Here are a few tips to help you plan better 1:1s for you and your team.

Carefully plan your remote 1:1s to make them more successful.

  • Set Aside Time: It’s really easy to not make time for remote 1:1s. Things come up, time slips away, and what’s the harm in missing one meeting? But then one missed meeting becomes two, which becomes three, so on and so forth. Do your best to set aside time for your 1:1s. If you have to cancel, reschedule as quickly as possible.
  • Create an Agenda: Next, we suggest creating an agenda for your remote 1:1s. What topics do you want to talk about and in what order? How long will the meeting last? What do you want your employees to understand post-meeting? These things should be decided before you login to your video conference software of choice.
  • Come Prepared: You created an agenda for your next meeting so you know you’ll be talking about your company’s latest marketing campaign. Make sure you have the right metrics, screenshots, etc. in front of you during your meeting! This will ensure your 1:1s are as productive as they can be.
  • Host Different Kinds of 1:1s: It’s important to understand that there are different kinds of remote 1:1s you can host. For example, there are catchup 1:1s that enable managers to align themselves with employees on regular projects, career development 1:1 that allow management and staff to discuss promotion opportunities, and more. Utilize different 1:1s when appropriate.

A successful meeting starts with a well-thought-out plan. Make sure you have a strategy in place before you connect with your employees individually.

2. Use Technology

Captain Obvious Alert: you can’t host remote 1:1s without a little help from technology. At the very least you and your team need phones to speak to each other from different locations. But if at all possible, meet with your team members via video conferencing software.

Being able to look your employees in the eyes is incredibly beneficial — especially since effective communication is over 70% non-verbal according to Lifesize. If you can’t see visual cues, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll understand your employees on a deep enough level to affect any sort of true communication.

Fortunately, plenty of solutions exist to improve your remote 1:1s in this way.

    • Zoom: When it comes to video conferencing, Zoom is the unquestioned leader. The app is easy to use, available on a variety of devices, and fairly secure. It also comes with handy features such as call recording and screen sharing. Plus, Zoom offers a free plan that will give you access to many of its top capabilities.
    • Highfive: If you’re tired of video conferencing apps that require a degree in rocket science to use properly, you’ll appreciate Highfive. This app prides itself on ease of use and won’t limit the number of remote 1:1s you can host or how long each meeting is like other tools will. Pricing for Highfive starts at $9.99 a month.
    • Microsoft Teams: If Zoom and Slack had a baby, it would probably look something like Microsoft Teams. This app enables users to text chat and share files throughout the workday (like Slack), but also includes video meeting capabilities as well (like Zoom.) It’s a great option for folks who want one tool that “does it all.” Teams is free, but to access features like meeting recordings, you’ll need to pay $5 a month per user.
  • CloudApp: the ideal asynchronous tool to connect your team without the need for a meeting. This platform helps you create screenshots on Mac and PC, as well as screen recording software, and GIF-making software for notes that need more context. 

To tell you the truth, it will be extremely difficult to learn how to have 1:1s with remote team members effectively if you don’t invest in video conferencing software.

3. Find a Private Location

Host your remote 1:1s from a distraction-free place.

Now that you have a plan for your next 1:1 and a reliable software to host it on, it’s time to choose your meeting location. Yes, as a member of the remote workforce, you can work from anywhere. But that doesn’t mean you should meet with your team from anywhere, too.

For example, you could host your meeting from a crowded coffee shop downtown. But the noisy environment will make it difficult for you and the staffer you’re meeting with to hear each other, concentrate on the topic at hand, and remain productive.

Host your remote 1:1s from a distraction-free place.

Instead, choose a quiet place to meet such as your home office, close the door to minimize potential distractions, and ask the individuals you meet with to do the same.

Also remember, background noise is only one form of distraction. What your employees see behind you while you meet with them matters a lot. A pile of dirty laundry in the corner and provocative posters on the wall don’t make for a professional meeting environment.

In a nutshell, do your best to create a professional atmosphere during your remote 1:1s. One of the easiest ways to do this is to choose a clean, quiet space to talk in.

Note: the pandemic has turned most of us into remote workers, at least temporarily. More than that, it’s turned our kids into remote learners, which means it may be difficult for you and your team to find a quiet space to meet with each other.

If your employee’s daughter crashes your meeting, have a laugh, let your employee deal with the situation, and then pick things back up. We’re all in the same boat. Just do your best.

4. Establish Meeting Expectations

To make sure your remote 1:1s are productive, establish meeting expectations. By “expectations” we mean ground rules that ensure meeting success. For example, we suggest:

  • Enforced Meeting Times: It’s hard to be productive when the person you’re meeting with logs in 15 minutes late. Stress the importance of timeliness to your staff.
  • Respectful Dialogue: You probably don’t have to worry about snarky comments from your employees. But it’s worth mentioning that the best 1:1s are respectful conversations where everyone has time to talk and feels heard. More on this below.
  • Proper Preparation: As mentioned above, it’s important to enter your meeting with a plan. When both parties are prepared for the meetup, work gets done more efficiently.

You won’t be in the same room with your staff when you meet with them. So do yourself a favor and establish meeting expectations so that communication can flow in a clear and productive way at all times.

5. Commit to Listening

Listen more than you speak during your remote 1:1s.

You’re the one hosting remote 1:1s, which means you get to talk as much as you want, right? Not so fast! You’ll be much better off if you listen more than you speak.

Listen more than you speak during your remote 1:1s.

Ask a question, then give team members ample time to respond. Doing so will ensure you get the info you need. It will also help your employees feel valued and respected, which will likely increase their job satisfaction and productivity levels and decrease turnover.

But consider going a step further than this, too. Don’t just ask them business-related questions. Speak to them on a more personal level—even if it means extending your meeting.

As remote workers, your team spends a lot of their time in isolation. They don’t get to participate in water cooler and hallway talk with colleagues like they would in a traditional office environment. Give them the chance to connect with another human being by “shooting the breeze” for a few minutes.

This is especially important now because of the lingering pandemic. Many people are struggling to adapt to the lack of human interaction we’re all experiencing. You can help remedy feelings of isolation by structuring your 1:1s to include personal time.

6. Send Post-Meeting Follow-Ups

You just hosted your first remote 1:1 (using all the tips outlined in this article, of course) and it went amazingly well! You and your employee connected on a real level and progress was made in a productive manner. Now what? It’s time for the post-meeting follow-up…

A post-meeting follow-up is a quick message you send the person you just met with to summarize the main talking points and reiterate the next steps.

This follow-up is SO IMPORTANT! Unfortunately, most people skip it.

By sending a quick email—or better yet, a screen recording that highlights your meeting agenda while you audibly recap important points and restate directives—you’ll make sure that both you and your staff are on the same page and working towards the same goals.

Every follow-up should include:

  • A summary of your meeting
  • Action items for each employee
  • Due dates for said action items
  • Resources like GIFs, articles, etc.

You’ve worked hard to ensure your remote 1:1s are effective. Don’t drop the ball, so to speak, at the very end and minimize your efforts. Just send a quick post-meeting follow-up.

7. Get Remote 1:1 Feedback

Seek employee feedback during your remote 1:1s.

Finally, to improve remote 1:1s, ask for feedback from your team after each get-together. What did they like about it? What do they think you can do better? Then take the information you receive and use it to become a better host.

If you’re worried that your staff won’t give you honest feedback (you are their boss, after all), then consider sending them an anonymous survey after all your weekly meetings are done. Tools like Survey Monkey, Typeform, and Google Forms make this process easy.

Seek employee feedback during your remote 1:1s.

Asking for feedback may seem obvious, but we still need to stress the importance of actually using the feedback you receive. Not only will it help you host better remote 1:1s, but it will also show your staff that you care about them and value their opinions.

Conversely, imagine how they’ll feel if you ask for their advice, then blatantly ignore everything they tell you. Probably not very good, right? This is exactly what you DON’T WANT to happen.

Host Better Remote 1:1s

If you manage a remote team, you need to learn how to improve 1:1s with remote team members. That way you can keep in touch with your staff in an effective manner. Follow the tips and best practices outlined above and your get-togethers will go much smoother.

Top Image Credit:  artem podrez; pexels