How often is too often to check-in with your remote employees? How do you get the most out of a check-in with remote workers? Managers have been dealing with these issues for months now, and as remote work seems indefinite for many employers, getting the check-in right is more important than ever.

Check-ins Keep Employees Engaged

The importance of social engagement in the workplace shouldn’t be underestimated. Frequent check-ins and brief conversations throughout the day are part of most workplace norms. Smiles, chit-chat, and other basic social functions have a big impact on workers.

And friendships are a big part of the workplace: one study shows eight in ten employees have friends at work, with an average of five friends in the workplace. These aren’t just casual acquaintances; more than half of the workers surveyed said they discussed their love life, health issues, and coworker conflicts with their workplace friends.

As more workers suffer degrading mental health throughout this turbulent time, what can you do to help your employees deal with their missing friendships and workplace banter?

Make Check-Ins Frequent, But Fast

A daily ten-minute chat might be just the ticket. “Short and frequent is the pattern that works,” the CEO of consultancy LeaderFactor told Bloomberg earlier this year. “If you don’t communicate frequently, people disengage and lose productivity.”

Managers hate to be seen as micromanaging, but a check-in which emphasizes making a human connection first, work second, is an ideal way to help your employee feel cared about and get in some valuable person-to-person conversation. (Parents of distance learners can be especially grateful for an adult to chat with!)

Scheduling the check-in will also show respect for your employee’s busy day. While you might have just dropped by their desk at the office, picking up the phone for a random call is more likely to induce anxiety than feelings of well-being. The overkill of a daily, scheduled meeting in the workplace becomes a reliable pause in the day for remote workers.

Try Video Chats Instead of a Phone Call

If your employees have the capability, make your check-ins video calls. You’ll both have a better opportunity to read one another’s facial expressions, which gives context to conversation. It also adds a human element to what can quickly devolve into a cold, business-only relationship now that you’re no longer working in the same spaces.

Ask How They’re Coping

There are subtle ways to check-in with your remote employees and make sure they’re not overwhelmed by work demands. Push the conversation in the right direction with queries which don’t have yes or no answers, like, “What can I do to help you with this project?” or, “What’s your biggest obstacle right now?” You can also shift it to a personal check-in by asking “How is your family?” or, “How is the pandemic affecting your family’s life?”

These questions might open the floodgates, or they might just give you a subtle insight to your employee’s own sense of resiliency. Be prepared to act; this is the right time to direct your employee towards company benefits which can help them, whether it’s mental health resources such as EAP or other assistance programs for childcare, car loans, or anything else which might be a source of stress.

Ensure Access to Support

Your company might have many voluntary benefits and subscriptions designed to give your employees support. How easy are they to locate, and do your employees know all of their options? If your employees have access to a mindfulness app, a fitness program, and a financial well-being course, but they’re all parked on different websites or don’t have clear signposts on your internal site, chances are many employees are missing this opportunity.

When you’re checking in with your employees, make sure you can direct them to the resources they need to help. Listening, but not acting on what they tell you, will only make them feel unheard and uncared-for.

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