Managing People

10 Questions to Ask Employees During Remote One-on-Ones

May 13, 2020
March 8, 2024
Andy Przystanski
Lattice Team

The manager-employee relationship is central to all things work. That’s why Lattice is passionate about one-on-one meetings and the role they play in developing employees and award-winning cultures. But just like there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to management, there isn’t a single set of talking points that apply to every meeting.

That’s especially true when it comes to remote work. Whether your team is remote due to a crisis or this is your “normal,” managers should tailor their one-on-ones to get at the issues unique to long-distance work relationships. Here are some questions we recently added to Lattice’s built-in list of manager talking points that you may want to add to your own remote one-on-one agenda.

1. Do you feel like you’re able to maintain meaningful connections with your work friends during this time?

While remote workers are generally more engaged than their peers, physical distance can have an isolating effect. It’s important that companies thoughtfully create opportunities for employees to socialize with peers. If you’re hosting a lunch and learn or team outing, be sure to involve remote workers as well.

2. Are you facing any new challenges while working remotely that you didn’t face in working in the office?

If you’re not used to working remotely, the transition can be jarring — for direct reports and managers alike. Look past reports’ brave faces and ask them to share what they’re struggling with while remote. As a manager, one of your most essential responsibilities is to help clear obstacles and get your team cranking again. 

3. Do you feel like you’re clear on priorities and goals right now? If not, what questions do you have?

During times of crisis, priorities and goals can shift. Cross-departmental initiatives might be sidelined or canceled altogether, leaving members of your team feeling a little lost. Use your one-on-one meetings to address that ambiguity and help give direct reports greater clarity.

4. How are you feeling right now? What’s your energy level? How is your stress level?

Communication tools like Slack and Zoom help us work better together — but subtle emotional cues can get lost. One of the most challenging aspects of managing remote workers is knowing how your team is really feeling. Ask them to open up. You can put them at ease by sharing how you’re feeling as well. Be honest.

5. Did you feel like you could take time for yourself during the workday this week?

Lattice survey data shows that remote employees don’t always feel comfortable stepping away from their desks. Periodically disconnecting during the workday for a walk or to eat lunch can make a big impact on employee mental health. Encourage reports to take time for themselves. If something is preventing them from doing that, ask what it is.

6. Do you feel supported in being able to adjust your work schedule to accommodate caregiving needs?

Working parents are asked to juggle a lot — that’s especially true during summer or school closures. While survey data shows that all employees value flexibility, caregivers especially do. Ask members of your team if they need any schedule accommodations. Remember that parents aren’t the only ones you’ll need to check in on. Those caring for sick or otherwise dependent loved ones are also caregivers and may need that same flexibility.

7. Do you have the hardware and software you need to work effectively during this period?

Remote work has its share of logistical challenges. If your team is remote due to a crisis, employees might be mum about their technical needs to avoid rocking the boat or looking needy. While it’s always best practice to ask reports to share what they need to be more productive, it’s especially important when you’re physically apart.

8. Are you experiencing any daily communication challenges? How would you like me to contact you?

Whether you’re onsite or remote, communicating clearly is a prerequisite for getting things done. And face it — most managers with remote employees are guilty of leaving their reports “out of the loop” at least sometimes. Ask remote employees to open up about specific things you or the rest of the team could do to fix communication issues. Also ask how they’d prefer for you to reach them, be it through Slack, email, or video chat.

9. Are there specific projects or tasks that you feel are blocked or impacted by working remotely?

Remote work, when it’s unexpected, can throw a wrench in even the best-laid plans. When communication breaks down or remote employees don’t have the tools to be productive, important projects can get stalled. Check in with employees to see if there are any roadblocks you can help move aside.

10. Do you feel like you're able to take the time to focus on your professional development?

With so much in flux, it’s easy for companies to shelve learning and development (L&D). But in a time when employees might be worried about job security, restating your investment in their future is more important than ever. For the same reasons that companies aren’t pumping the brakes on performance reviews or goal-setting, managers should continue focusing on employee growth.

Whether some or all of your team is remote, HR leaders and managers need to be able to adapt their working styles and rise to the moment. Visit our remote work toolkit for more content curated specifically for those grappling with the new world of work. To see how Lattice’s software helps teams get more out of their one-on-ones, schedule a product tour.