9 Pro Tips for Virtual One on One Meetings

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October 17, 2020

Hi! You discovered our list of effective tips for virtual one on ones.

Virtual one on one meetings are periodic online calls where supervisors and direct reports chat via video platforms like Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams. The purpose of these meetings is to check-in, share feedback, establish goals and priorities, and set plans for personal growth. The meeting duration tends to be 15 to 30 minutes.

These meetings are an important part of remote team management and can help improve company culture.

This post includes:

  • virtual one on one ideas
  • virtual one-on-one meeting questions
  • virtual one on one tools

And more actionable advice.

Let’s get into it.

List of tips for virtual one on ones

From implementing four week cycles to asking the right questions, here are best practices for virtual one on ones that aim to guide remote workers towards organizational success.

1. Send notes in advance

Few phrases evoke as much anxiety as “we need to talk.” Even model employees sometimes suspect, “I’m in trouble,” when the boss calls a meeting. Sending notes in advance eliminates anxiety, plus lays the groundwork for a back-and-forth discussion. Tipping employees off about talking points gives them time to prepare, thus ensuring a more robust and enlightened discussion. For best results, email a bulleted list, or even just a short synopsis of the topics to explore during the call.

2. Create a consistent format

A consistent format gives employees a sneak peek into the meeting. Following a set structure for virtual one on ones familiarizes staff with the content of the calls, and helps with preparation on both sides.

An example virtual one on one format may be:

  1. Urgent or time-sensitive tasks
  2. Priorities since we last met
  3. Main challenges
  4. Main triumphs
  5. Questions or concerns
  6. Wellbeing check
  7. Priorities until we meet again
  8. Action steps

Repeating the same structure each meeting cuts down on planning time and improves the flow.

3. Set recurring meetings

Frequent one on ones tend to be more effective than random one-offs, but syncing time slots and setting up calls can be a chore. To take the work out of scheduling, set recurring meetings.

First, decide on a time period to meet, such as bi-weekly or once a month. Next, pick a particular day and time, confirm the employee’s availability, and send the invite. Rescheduling is always an option, and changing the date of one or two meetings is easier than starting from scratch each time. Plus, the anticipation of the upcoming encounter sets a soft deadline that keeps employees on track.

4. Implement four week cycles

Implementing four week cycles is an approach that breaks down projects month by month. Four week cycles are one of the most useful virtual one on one tools available to remote managers.

To follow this format, meet with your team once a month and lay out hyper-specific goals for the next four weeks. These conversations establish priorities for the near future. Of course, urgent matters may arise that necessitate deviation from the plan. But as a rule, four week cycles outline a clear path for remote employees to follow to achieve desired results. This cycle decreases anxiety and doubt and increases output and productivity, creating a hyper-focused, accountable virtual workforce.

5. Don’t skip calls

Tempting as it may be to postpone meetings when you are short on time or light on updates, do not repeatedly deviate from the schedule. Forming a meeting habit establishes momentum. Once you miss a couple of calls you are off the system, and restarting becomes a more arduous task.

Not to mention, regular calls keep open lines of communication, so employees feel comfortable airing concerns or asking questions. Plus, meeting solely based on necessity puts teammates on edge, while regular meetings are less stressful and more comfortable for staff.

6. Meet using video meeting software

While you could conduct virtual one-on-ones over the phone, via instant messaging, or even while playing a video game together, meeting face to face allows you to pick up on nonverbal cues and body language.

Video calls allow both parties to see each other, enabling managers or employees to address facial expressions or gestures that reveal doubt, confusion, or hesitance. Furthermore, face-to-face interactions help build camaraderie and trust and fight remote loneliness, establishing healthier relationships between virtual team leaders and teammates.

While this tip may seem like common sense, making a point to meet your teammates via video meeting software is one of the best virtual one on one ideas you can implement.

7. Forthright communication is the right communication

Communication is a critical element of remote work, and communication between a manager and employees is especially important. Virtual one on ones set the tone for projects and daily responsibilities and give staff direction.

Since virtual leaders have fewer opportunities to check on works-in-progress, it is vital that employees leave conferences with a clear vision and understanding of next steps. Otherwise, managers may not catch misunderstandings until later stages of the project, after many hours or weeks of misaligned work.

Forthright communication ensures that managers and employees are on the same page and empowers all parties to perform tasks optimally.

8. Ask effective questions

Researching one-on-one questions is a good starting point when preparing for any meeting, but the infrequency of conversations when working remotely calls for an especially careful approach. To ensure that both managers and employees get the most out of the one-on-one, ask effective questions.

Some good virtual one-on-one meeting questions include:

  1. What tools or software are most helpful to your job?
  2. Are there any additional resources you think might help you do your job better?
  3. When you have a question or need help, what is the first resource you use?
  4. Is your job what you expected when you accepted it? If not, where has it differed?
  5. Have you had the opportunity to connect with some of your remote colleagues?
  6. What is the greatest challenge you face in your day-to-day home workflow?
  7. How could your teammates better support you in your day-to-day responsibilities?
  8. How could I, as your manager, better support you in your day-to-day responsibilities?
  9. In what ways have you grown since you started with the company?
  10. In what ways would you like to grow within the next year?

In general, avoid “yes or no” questions in favor of queries that elicit thoughtful replies. The more specific the query, the better. Targeted prompts like, “how do you feel about managing your daily workflow and responsibilities?” elicit more helpful responses than vague inquiries like “how is everything going?”

If you like, you can start with a quick icebreaker question too.

9. Keep notes so you can refer later

Beyond Zoom fatigue and “meetings that could have been emails,” employee’s top complaints about meetings include regurgitating the same information at every gathering and a lack of follow-through on discussed topics. Note-taking helps to eliminate both these frustrations.

By keeping notes to refer to later, you can circle back to unresolved or issues and ensure closure. This method also reminds you to follow-up on unanswered questions or concerns post-meeting.

A structured note-taking system or tool such as Evernote or Microsoft OneNote can help you organize your thoughts into easily accessible records.

Final Thoughts

One on ones are important in any working environment, but especially so in virtual offices where leaders and employees have limited contact. Checking in virtually aligns employees with their manager’s vision and other teammates’ efforts, and gives teammates a forum to air concerns or ask questions. Not to mention, virtual one on ones make remote workers feel seen and supported, strengthening company culture as well as the relationship between workers and management.

Next, read about how you can quickly boost morale on your team.

FAQ: Virtual One on One Meetings

Here are answers to the most common questions about virtual one on one meetings.

What is a virtual one on one?

Virtual one on ones are scheduled meetings where supervisors and direct reports check in via video call. During these meetings, both parties update each other on the status of projects and decide on a course of action for the immediate future. Managers also use these calls as a way to gauge the morale and satisfaction of remote workers.

What is the purpose of remote one on one meetings?

The purpose of remote one one one meetings is to give virtual workers support and direction. These check-ins ensure that an employee expends energy and effort in productive ventures, which is important since interactions between virtual supervisors and employees are minimal. The nature of remote work is highly independent and requires a great deal of self-direction, and virtual one-on-ones ensure that employees focus on worthwhile tasks and priorities.

Also, these regular check-ins keep virtual leaders informed about the mental states and wellbeing of remote workers. Virtual employees are subject to higher rates of isolation and disconnection than hybrid or in-office employees. Regular conversations make staff feel supported and reinforce the importance of distributed teamwork.

What are good tips for virtual one on one meetings?

The top tips for virtual one on ones are:

  1. Send notes in advance
  2. Create a consistent format
  3. Set recurring meetings
  4. Implement four week cycles
  5. Don’t skip calls
  6. Meet using video conferencing software
  7. Forthright communication is the right communication
  8. Ask effective questions
  9. Keep notes so you can refer later

These virtual one on one best practices ensure fruitful discussions and constructive follow-up.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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