Simple Check-In Questions for Complex Times

March 25, 2020

Check-in questions can be a powerful tool for staying connected in an uncertain and stressful time. A “check-in” is facilitator jargon for the practice of having every individual share their answer to a question at the beginning of a meeting. Check-ins can help people share their frame of mind, redirect their attention, and engage productively at the start of a meeting.

Checking in is an invitation for vulnerability, kindness, empathy, and connection. These are important even during normal times in the workplace, and even more important now.

These are quick questions you can use if the meeting is short, or the group size is large, or you’re about to deal with urgent matters and need as much time as possible:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how are you doing? (People can briefly elaborate)
  • What’s a word or phrase that describes how you’re feeling?
  • What’s your mood on a scale of 1 to 5? What’s your energy on a scale of 1 to 5? (People can briefly elaborate)

If you have more time or if the group is smaller:

  • What’s one gratitude or appreciation from the past week? (This is a wonderful re-centering question and can be combined with some of the other ones)
  • What’s been one high and one low over the last week?
  • How are you feeling as you’re coming into today’s meeting? What do need to let go of in order to focus today?
  • What’s one or two things going on personally for you in the last few days? What’s one or two things on your mind professionally?

People can always choose to pass if they wish. It rarely happens, but sometimes a person may not wish to answer, and it is respectful to honor that choice. If the group size is big, you can have people check in as pairs, or small groups, and then ask for a few highlights for the larger group discussion. If you’re doing these virtually, it helps to do a role-call with an established order, or for the facilitator to call on people by name.

You’ll notice that many of these check-in questions inquire into people’s emotional state. It is important to be deliberate about staying in tune with our emotions during this time. Fred Rogers (of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) once said “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.” Emotions are often considered unmentionable. Checking in provides a structured way for us to express them in a healthy way, so they can become more manageable. It can also help leaders gauge their team’s stress levels and follow up with individuals if more support is needed.

-Linshuang Lu