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With working from home arrangements in full swing during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic regular contact with employees is even more necessary. In this Q&A we discuss some tips on how make the most out of your one-on-one meetings. 

The following content is based on information available at the time of publishing.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) may have disrupted normal business flow, but it does not need to put an end to the vital one-on-one. 

Leaders who are keen to maintain connectivity, productivity and engagement need to ensure that every effort is made to uphold the one-on-one schedule with direct reports. In uncertain times, employees will appreciate the certainty of routine and regular communication.

The rise of remote workforces and technology has positioned us well to successfully conduct our one-on-ones from opposite sides of the city – or even the world. Sure, it’s nice to bring a coffee to your favourite meeting room, but there is something special about connecting virtually.

Tips to make the most out of a remote one-on-one

Honour the one-on-one

A golden rule in leadership is to ensure that you respect your one-on-one meeting time and only cancel in the event of an emergency, as opposed to just being ‘busy’.

When leaders cancel, they send a clear message that the employee is not important enough to keep the meeting time. Postponing a thirty minute meeting may cost hours in an employee’s productivity or disengage them from the business.

Determine the software in advance

Calling employees to chat may have been cutting edge in the past, but technology now provides us with incredible tools to connect virtually with team members anywhere in the world. 

Find out what software your organisation has access to and use it to enhance the one-on-one experience. Sharing screens, instant messaging, common drives and video are considered basic features. There are countless options on the market including Skype for business, Microsoft Teams, ezTalks Meetings, Google Hangouts, Cisco WebEx, AnyMeeting or Mikogo.

Be open about your expectations and ask your employee what works for them

One-on-ones can be engaging, productive and mutually beneficial, but they can also be a train wreck.

Employees are not mind readers, so they need to clearly understand what you expect from them and how you prefer the meeting to run. If you want the employee to lead the meeting with their key actions and achievements, then you need to articulate that.

Similarly, take the time to ask your direct report what works best for them. It is a good idea to put some key points in the meeting invite to give the employee time to reflect.

Do your homework

Leaders are encouraged to do their homework prior to the one-on-one. What did the employee ask you to follow up on last meeting? What key business information do you need to share? What questions do you have around output and workflow? The leader may be in a senior role, but employees hold their leaders accountable for keeping up their end of the bargain. Leaders who are unable to follow through with tasks run the risk of damaging their leadership brand.

Summarise and check for understanding

A meeting without action items is purely a discussion. Leaders are encouraged to summarise the key points/takeaways from the one-on-one, the action items and next steps. It is recommended that leaders also take the time to check for understanding and provide a space for the employee to raise a question or concern. It is not ideal for employees to leave the one-on-one feeling that they were not heard or understood.

Goals and obstacles

Remote team members don’t have the benefit of physical workplace interaction, so they are heavily reliant upon contact time in meetings to gauge a sense of what is going well and what needs to be worked on.

A leader has a responsibility to be timely and authentic with feedback. It can be tempting to use a one-on-one to deep dive into technical coaching, however that can deprive the employee of the intent and content of the meeting. The coaching absolutely needs to happen; however, the leader should use this time to ‘plant the coaching seed’ and organise a separate time.

Be efficient and effective

Remote meetings are no different than physical ones where time is a valuable commodity. Some leaders are notorious for booking a thirty minute one-on-one, only to end the meeting after an hour and a half. Either the meeting did not stay on track or it turned into a performance coaching or counselling session. Keeping one-on-ones to a thirty minute time frame helps them to be more productive and on occasion less painful for both parties.


One-on-one meetings help ensure that leaders and direct reports remain on the same page, build connectivity, increase performance and reduce errors.

They work hard to show the employee that their manager ‘has their back’ and is right there in the passenger seat helping to navigate the way. Rather than either party seeing them as a ‘have to do’, perhaps in this unique work climate we can all see them as a way to connect and ensure that we are playing our role in safeguarding our business for the road ahead.

Further assistance

For further assistance please contact us or call the Workplace Advice Line on 1300 55 66 77. 

Further working from home resources available:

More Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice and resources can also be found at Ai Group's dedicated webpage

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