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The 4 critical questions to ask remote employees

Care about remote team morale? These critical questions to ask remote employees can help support your team as a manager.

questions to ask remote employees

During these uncertain times, many of us as leaders might feel beholden have answers – not questions – for our team. Questions to ask remote employees are likely not top-of-mind.

We’re expected to have answers to things like, “When will we be able to go back into the office?” or “Will certain team members will have their jobs still in a few weeks?” or “What’s the outlook of the business six months from now?

It’s natural and understandable. Answers, not questions, seem to be our focus right now as leaders.

Yet in order to do our job well as leaders, questions are what can offer insight, understanding, and resolution – more than we might imagine.

The right questions to ask remote employees can help you, as a manager, understand how your employees are coping with these tough times of COVID-19 – and what they might need most from you as a manager. Even the act of asking a question in the first place can demonstrate that you care, as a leader.

Sure, the UberEats lunch you bought for everyone was a nice perk… But when’s the last time you asked someone what time of day they are most productive while working remotely? A single meaningful question can make all the difference for employee morale.

I won’t just give you one question, though. Below are the 4 most critical questions to ask remote employees – plus 10 other recommended follow-up questions to ask. To understand truly how your team is doing right now during these trying times and best support them, start with these questions here…

#1: How would you describe your level of energy these days?

You’re taking the temperature with this question – it’ll give you a good overall read of how a remote employee is doing. Additionally, because you’re asking about “level of energy,” it gives the other person permission to share that they may feel worn thin and drained more than usual. You want the truthful answer of how they’re actually doing, so you can then accordingly support them as a manager.

Follow-up questions you can ask to better assess their current situation and support them include:

  • Have you been able to take time for yourself, in any way? How can I support you in that?
  • Are there any tasks or projects lately that feel more like a struggle than usual? How can I adjust things to help make that project more manageable right now?

#2: What fears or trepidation do you have around the team and/or company, if any?

You might be nervous to ask this question… which is a probable sign you should ask it 🙂 The only way you can allay fears in the team is if you know what they are in the first place. Giving your team space to admit what they’re worried about also reduces some of its ominous nature: What is known and shared can soften the edges of anxiety.

Follow-up questions you can ask to figure out the best next steps to address their fears include:

  • What can we communicate more often and more transparently, to help reduce the anxiety around X?
  • Is our plan for the next 45 – 60 days clear?
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#3: Do you feel equipped to do your job well?

You no doubt care about performance. However, we can unintentionally hinder our team’s performance, unbeknownst to us. This question uncovers how we may be accidentally getting in the way.

Follow-up questions you can ask to remove roadblocks for your team include:

  • Is it clear what needs to get done, and the level of quality that’s required for this work clear?
  • Am I being respectful of the amount of time you have to accomplish something? Can I be doing a better job of protecting your time?
  • Have I given you enough context about why this work is important, who the work is for, or any other information that is crucial to do your job well?

#4: What can I do to help create an environment for you to do your best work, while remote?

Of all the questions to ask remote employees, this might be the most paramount. The answers will directly inform how you as a leader can be doing differently – or doing more of. Be sure to ask at least a few follow-up questions to know how you can translate your team’s answers into action.

Follow-up questions you can ask to better understand where your team member is coming from:

  • What time of day, while working remotely, are you most productive? Is there anything I can do to ensure you get that time to during the day to focus on your work?
  • What feels confusing right now? How can I improve the clarity or cadence of my communication?
  • What can I adjust in my own management style? Does my tone come off the wrong way? Do I follow-up too frequently with you, not giving you space to breathe?
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During your next one-on-one meeting, try asking these 4 critical questions – or some of the 10 suggested follow-up questions.

Whatever you do, just at least one question.

Don’t fixate merely on answers as a means to give assurance as a leader. Perhaps the greatest assurance during these times is you asking questions that show you’re serious about supporting them, in the first place.

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Written by Claire Lew

CEO of Canopy. My mission in life is to help people become happier at work. Say hi to me on Twitter at @clairejlew.