5 ways to keep remote 1-on-1 meetings fresh and functional

Written by: Nora St-Aubin & Jasmine Papillon-Smith | Illustrated by: Mathieu Labrecque
Published on October 23, 2020 | Reading time: 6m

The best managers know that 1-on-1 meetings are an essential part of maintaining employee engagement, driving performance development, and keeping all of your team members aligned. But have these important conversations that were once a moment to connect with colleagues lost their lustre in the era of video conferencing fatigue?

With a bit of thought and effort, you can be sure to keep your next 1-on-1 remote meeting both functional and fresh. Try implementing the ideas outlined in this piece to bring a little life back into your conversations with employees and give you the oversight you need to lead your team.

But first…

The main challenges of remote 1-on-1 meetings

1-on-1s are all about building employees’ connections: a connection with their manager and a connection with their work. Here, we go over the main challenges that remote meetings pose to these two important elements, and offer quick tips on how to overcome them.

Free bonus: download our complete before, during, and after guide for the perfect 1-on-1!

Employee-manager relationships

Awkward delays and other technological glitches can make communication more stilted in a virtual meeting, and discussions might not flow as naturally. Remote 1-on-1s make building authentic relationships with employees more of a challenge.

Try this: Connect on a deeper level

Instead of the regular “how are you doing?” start the conversation with a more unique prompt that will get the conversation rolling. Try one of these:

  • What are you loving from our current remote work context?
  • If there was one thing you could see our team accomplish, what would it be?
  • Describe a recent work situation where you felt you were at your best professionally.

Pssst…you can select your next conversation opener from dozens of suggestions (including the ones above) in Officevibe’s complete 1-on-1 tool.

Employee engagement and motivation

Remote meetings can start to blur from one into the next, making them feel unproductive and less personal. When it comes to 1-on-1s, this monotony is particularly troublesome as it can threaten the sense of purpose employees feel at work. 

Try this: Bring it back to “why”

Bring everything discussed back to its purpose to remind employees why their work is important. Connect feedback, employee goals, and other talking points to things like:

  • Your employees’ personal aspirations
  • Team goals and objectives
  • Company values and culture

It’s easier to connect employees to the bigger picture when their individual goals align with the team’s goals. Set and connect individual and team goals, track progress in 1-on-1s, and maintain meeting notes all in one place with Officevibe.

5 ways to keep remote 1-on-1s fresh and functional

Here are 5 ideas of how to keep 1-on-1s productive, continue building trust, and bring a little life back into your conversations with employees—even from a distance.

1. Set the agenda collaboratively

Every manager strives to have a good high-level view of their team, but it can be hard to know what each person needs from you on an individual level. You can avoid guessing by setting 1-on-1 agendas together with employees. Not only does this take the onus off of you to come up with all the right discussion points, it helps make your remote meeting a two-way conversation and ensures you hear what’s on your team members’ minds. Employees get to see the agenda ahead of time and prepare, reducing their stress and giving them the opportunity to raise new issues you might not have considered. You can try a collaborative 1-on-1 tool like Officevibe to build agendas together, and share a point of reference for action items and follow-up points.

A 1-on-1 sidekick for managers

You don’t have to manage your 1-on-1s alone—you can access a platform for planning, centralizing and following up on them. With a constant stream of meaningful conversation topics and tips for tackling tough discussions with employees, digital 1-on-1 tools like Officevibe save you time and act as a repository for commitments, employee progress and past conversations. And, it’s free.

One-on-one meeting is easier with officevibe. This is how you can organize your computer screen

Remote work 1-on-1 talking points from Officevibe

  • In your opinion, how is our team dynamic impacted by our current remote work context?
  • What’s your understanding of what’s expected of you and your work in our current remote context?

2. Make it a walk-and-talk meeting

Back at the office, it was easier to mix things up by stepping out for a stroll or meeting up early at a nearby café. For informal 1-on-1 meetings, try having a regular phone call (not video) and going for a walk while you chat, or simply sitting outside. Taking screen breaks throughout the day supports productivity and focus, and can contribute to overall employee wellness. This is also a great way to lead by example so your team members don’t feel too tethered to their devices, and can help prevent employee burnout.

3. Prioritize professional development

For some, working from home can come with feelings of isolation, disconnection, and insecurity. You can keep employees engaged in their roles and feeling confident in themselves by prioritizing their professional development. When you set individual goals with your team members, be sure to establish ones that are both performance-related and development-focused. Keep in mind that with a shift to remote work, goals may need to be adjusted or realigned to fit your team’s new context. Officevibe’s goal setting feature helps you outline SMART goals that align with business objectives and prioritize growth.

Development tip: Offer your team members a set amount of time in their week to dedicate to development. Whether it’s to enroll in a course, join a peer group, or schedule coaching sessions with a mentor, having time explicitly for learning helps make growth a priority.

4. Offer feedback—and ask for it

To drive a culture of feedback on your team, use your allotted time with employees to have a feedback session. But don’t just share your own feedback, take the opportunity to solicit theirs, too. Prepare ahead by each picking a specific task, project, or initiative you’d like the others’ input on. Reflect on what you want to highlight about your employee’s work, what questions you have for them, and any relevant ideas you’d like to share for the work they have coming up. Take turns sharing your feedback with each other, and be intentional about listening when you’re on the receiving end.

Free bonus: download our complete before, during, and after guide for the perfect 1-on-1!

5. Focus on team dynamics

Between 1-on-1s to set employee goals or discuss more individual subjects, you can use your time with each person to check in on overall team dynamics and engagement. In fact, 1-on-1s are a great way to act on engagement with your team members. This helps make the health of the team a collective responsibility and gives everyone a sense of leadership in contributing to it. Getting employee feedback on an ongoing basis helps you spot any fluctuations so you can address them in real-time. Officevibe’s conversation engine for 1-on-1s turns team engagement metrics into conversation starters for you, to keep talking points relevant and valuable.

Maintaining ongoing communication with your team members is essential to supporting them in achieving their collective and individual goals, and your 1-on-1s with employees are precious time for the important conversations that keep you in the loop. Don’t let the slump of mundane virtual meetings get in the way of your coaching—keep things fresh by trying out these ideas.