1:1 best practices for remote teams

How often should you meet with each of your team members if you manage a remote team? How long should you meet? What else should you do?

My team spans geographically from the west coast of the United States to the Czech Republic and from as far north as the Netherlands and as far south as Brazil.

Here is how I have 1:1s. I am always looking for suggestions and best practices!

  1. Be available. This is not a 1:1 thing per se, but I believe one of the most important things for successful remote working is being available and communicating clearly when you are available. (Focus on communicating when you are available, not when you are not available. Nobody cares that you have a dentist appointment or a day of meetings. They do care that you’ll be free and online from 10–11 their time.)
  2. Scheduled weekly calls. I have a 1:1 on the calendar with each person on my team every week. I only cancel if one of us is not working. I think it’s important to take a minute to say hi “in person” even if there’s nothing on the agenda.
  3. Use video. Meeting in person is way better than meeting on the phone. Meeting via video is some where in between. We communicate a lot with our body language and you can get much of that through video. Meeting via video helps build a rapport and makes difficult messages and conversations easier.
  4. Keep track of agenda items and discussions. For each 1:1, we keep a joint document where we can keep track things we want to tell each other. If I think of something when I’m in another meeting, I can jot it down there to discuss in our next 1:1. We also use it to capture topics we’ve discussed and links to things we’ve shared.

These things seem more personal preference and perhaps less universal:

  1. Time length. I prefer 1:1s to be 30–60 minutes. How long depends on the person, their role, what’s going on in that role, how they like to communicate, how much time zone overlap I have with them the rest of the week, etc. If I schedule 30 minute calls, I prefer not to have a meeting right after so that the conversation can go longer if needed. I think it’s more important to meet weekly and be available in between calls than it is to have a certain amount of time.
  2. All in one day or spread out? I like to spread out my 1:1s throughout the week. Personally, I find it too much context switching and too draining to have them one right after the other all on the same day or two. Spreading them out lets me focus on them and helps me remember who said what.

What 1:1 best practices have you discovered for remote teams?