Friends, we are in unprecedented times.
If I’d written this post in March, when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the U.S. hard and many companies suddenly pivoted to having employees work from home, that statement would have been true. If I’d said this in April when we first started seeing the toll businesses and employees faced in bankruptcies and historic unemployment, it would have been true.
But today, the country and the world face the longstanding pain, anger, and fear over the police killing of George Floyd and other black men and women, as well as nationwide protests and violence. It’s apparent that we—as managers, as employees, as people—are in unprecedented times.
We can’t forget that these current events are a constant backdrop that employees are coping with, even when handling their daily responsibilities. While managers should always stay connected with employees, these days, this interaction is critical.
Although companies new to remote working assumed this arrangement would be temporary, it may go on much longer. Google and Facebook have told employees to prepare to work from home until 2021, and Twitter said employees could work from home forever. It’s realistic that other companies will follow this trend.
Some companies have always operated remotely, but for many, having employees work from home full time is still a foreign feeling, especially during a time when employees require more hands-on support than ever before. Neither leaders nor managers can ignore the external stressors that may be impacting their people, so carving out these intentional moments to connect will help your employees stay engaged and build resilience, even through tough times.
With the transition from crisis mode to long-term remote work, ensure you’re re-establishing performance management essentials, starting with employee 1-on-1s. These regular meetings allow you to meet individually with your employees, build relationships, provide coaching, and support your people in a more meaningful way.
Having 1-on-1s helps employees feel invested in the organization and helps you become better advocates for your people. Employees who have regular meetings with their managers are 3x more likely to be engaged. Companies have also found that 1-on-1 sessions increase productivity and reduce turnover.
Remote meetings are similar to in-person meetings in many ways, but remote sessions offer less room for failure. In an office setting, you have several opportunities to stop and chat with an employee. But when working remotely, even if you text or use Slack, a 1-on-1 may be the one opportunity per week you have to truly connect. Here are tips you can use to help make the most of every virtual 1-on-1.
• Video is key. A video call increases connection and communication. According to Forbes research, 92% of executives said that being able to see employees build trust. Remote employees agree, saying they feel better connected with video conferences versus other communications methods.
• Take time to build rapport. Automatically include that time in the meeting. If you were in the office, you would invariably start with small talk that establishes a connection, and it is needed even more when working remotely.
• Be present. This is a tip for any meeting, but particularly when conducting a remote 1-on-1. Multitasking during a 1-on-1 (even to check a text) demonstrates disengagement, sending a powerful and harmful message.
• Be ready for the meeting. Spending even a few minutes hunting down a report you want to discuss, or roaming the house to find a quiet place to talk cuts into meeting time and devalues the conference.
• Do not cancel the meeting. Life is unpredictable and schedules may change with little notice, but don’t assume that a meeting held remotely is less critical than one held in the office.
In addition to taking time to build rapport, as you talk with your employees, ask and genuinely listen to how they are doing in the current work environment. What challenges are they having with working remotely, whether it be with teamwork, technology, or processes?
Many employees, especially those in the black community and their allies, are grieving and look to company leaders for understanding, support, and action. The 1-on-1 is a time to authentically express your empathy and build a psychologically safe place for your people to be their whole, best selves.
You can also use 1-on-1s as a time to ask employees how you can help promote a work environment of inclusion. J. Christopher Hamilton, an attorney and assistant professor at Syracuse University, said that leaders affirming they “stand on the side of justice,” help businesses show solidarity with employees during the protests.
The 1-on-1 has always been a powerful tool to help manage performance. For remote employees, 1-on-1s are essential. In today’s environment, consistent, thoughtful, and mindful 1-on-1s are absolutely necessary for the recovery and health and productivity of your employees and business.
Pamela DeLoatch is a B2B technology writer specializing in creating marketing content for the HR industry. With a background as an HR generalist and specialist, she writes about the employee experience, engagement, diversity, HR leadership, culture and technology. Follow Pamela on Twitter @pameladel.