Let’s be honest. Most people don’t like to be on the receiving end of a “just checking in” email from a business contact.
After all, most of those messages don’t sound like they’re conveying genuine concern, do they?
Instead, we tend to see them as the sender’s way of urging us to give them what they want — which is usually our time, attention, and labor.
So, is there anything we can do to improve the experience of receiving — and sending — a check-in message?
Well, learning how to say “just checking in” professionally (but ideally without getting on the recipient’s nerves) can only help!
In this article, we’ll learn when and how to check in with your colleagues, as well as what the benefits of that practice are.
Table of Contents
Before diving into our topic, let’s go over why we might have to check in on someone via text, email, or phone.
You may already have some personal experience with sending (or receiving) that kind of message.
So, think back to those times. What were the most common triggers that made you want to check in on someone you have a professional relationship with?
Was it because someone missed a deadline?
If not, you might have sent it to:
- Remind your boss to go over some documents,
- Tell a coworker that they owe you a response to an important email,
- Nudge an employee to stay on track with a task,
- Get in touch with a potential employer after a job interview, or
- Ask a customer for feedback on a competitor’s product.
In any case, the dreaded “just checking up on you” text message isn’t just for people who are missing meetings or otherwise shirking their professional responsibilities without providing a valid explanation.
Besides, even in those kinds of situations, we have to keep in mind that someone could be acting differently due to all sorts of extenuating circumstances.
With that in mind, let’s go over the main types of scenarios that might warrant a “checking in” message.
The first reason you might have to check in on someone you work with is also the most common.
Namely, you might want to know where you stand on a project or a task you’ve previously discussed with the message recipient.
In these cases, it’s best to have both parties involved agree upon a set check-in date and time.
When everyone is aware of the expectations, that email or text won’t catch anyone by surprise.
Outside of internal company check-ins, this kind of communication would also be used to get an update about a potential job or check in with clients or customers.
The second reason you might have to check in on someone you work with — typically, a teammate or an employee — is when their workload suddenly increases.
If you know someone is having a hard time with a particularly stressful project, you might want to see how they’re doing.
Alternatively, let’s say your company just introduced a new piece of software into the equation — such as a new team collaboration app.
Even if you provided employee training before switching, it may take some time for everyone to make the transition.
If you notice an employee struggling to integrate the software into their workflow, you might want to set aside some time to provide additional support.
Naturally, that offer would follow a good old “just checking in” message.
Sadly, not every work day can go by without team members having interpersonal issues that affect their productivity.
If you notice that some of your coworkers or employees are acting differently around certain people, a check-in message would be a good way to get to the bottom of the issue.
You never know — it could be something trivial, like someone eating someone else’s lunch from the company fridge.
That would be a problem worth discussing but certainly not something you’d need to be seriously concerned about.
However, if it’s a matter of someone being on the receiving end of microaggressions or bullying, it would be your duty to interfere.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Are you becoming concerned about the way people at work are talking to each other? Would you like to know how to resolve the tension before someone says something they’ll end up regretting? The tips in these blog posts should help you achieve respectful communication in the workplace.
Last but certainly not least, if someone you work with has been sick, checking in with them should be completely acceptable.
Well, if they’re on sick leave and you already sent them a get well soon message, you should wait for them to come back to work before checking in.
However, if you notice that their health issues are still affecting their output at work weeks after their sick leave, you can message them to ask if they need help getting back into the swing of things.
On the other hand, a check-in message could still be the right move, even if your colleague wasn’t the one who was sick.
For example, if they’re the primary caretaker for a sick family member or if they’re grieving the loss of a loved one, a check-in message would go a long way to ensure their well-being.
Now that we know when we might need to check in on an employee or a coworker, let’s find the why.
As you’ll see, most of the benefits we’re about to list boil down to establishing a productive and positive work environment through honest, kind, and continuous communication.
Of course, the line between micromanaging and supporting your employees or coworkers is pretty thin, especially now that working from home has made it harder to keep track of team members and their needs.
Still, if you find a method of communication that doesn’t disrupt your team members while they’re working, your attempts to reach out are sure to be rewarded.
With that in mind, let’s see what you stand to gain from learning how to say “just checking in” professionally.
It’s no secret that sometimes, professional communication has a way of making people feel rather lonely.
Even something that should be considered a benign attempt to reach out — such as a check-in message — can make us feel like someone is feigning concern in the interest of making small talk before hitting us with a major request for our time.
It’s no wonder so many people reported feeling isolated at their jobs in a 2019 EY survey — and that information was collected before we all went remote!
But, why should you care about whether your team members feel a sense of belonging?
Well, simply put, those who consider themselves fully integrated into their company tend to be more engaged at work.
Feeling like an integral part of the team does wonders for their mental health, which in turn makes them feel more capable of performing their daily tasks.
So ultimately, increasing employee engagement through kind and considerate communication will also lead to an increase in productivity.
Checking in with potential employers, clients, or even past customers can have a similar effect.
Of course, in those cases, reaching out would essentially re-engage them, which would also have an effect on conversions — if that’s your ultimate goal.
Even if you’re not too invested in the emotional benefits a heartfelt “just checking up on you” text message might have on its recipient, you’re sure to like this one.
Namely, making sure that your team members have everything they need to work on their tasks is bound to make them more productive.
Of course, offering to support someone in a professional setting doesn’t always amount to providing them with information, contacts, or equipment.
Sometimes, your feedback is all your coworkers will need to continue working on their tasks and developing their skills.
After all, there are several benefits to providing feedback during more casual interactions with the people you work with.
For one, doing so allows us to correct misunderstandings and catch mistakes before they end up in the final version of a document or a project.
Don’t you just hate when you entrust someone with a task only to see them deliver something you didn’t ask for?
Isn’t delegation supposed to help us get things done more efficiently?
It certainly shouldn’t be a source of frustration.
At least, it doesn’t need to be — as long as we communicate our expectations clearly.
But, since it’s unreasonable to expect that our every word will be absorbed properly at the start of a project, checking in is still a necessary part of the process.
Regular check-ins can therefore provide the direction and clarity your team members need to keep projects in motion.
Moreover, such exchanges can also help employees pinpoint the tasks they should focus on in order to keep their work performance satisfactory.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
To ensure mutual understanding with the people you work with, you might want to brush up on your active communication skills. This blog post should help with that:
Knowing exactly where you stand, whether it’s with a project or the company at large, is a huge advantage of check-in conversations.
As we have hinted at in the previous section, a brief check-in exchange with someone you work with is a great way to remember your priorities.
That alone will help you stay on track in time for employee evaluations.
Additionally, check-in conversations provide the perfect opportunity to ask for feedback on your work.
So if you want to alleviate the pressure people feel as the yearly evaluations come around, a check-in message would be a good place to start.
After all, if your coworkers or employees are used to receiving feedback and adjusting accordingly throughout the year, nothing in their evaluation will come as a surprise.
While we’re on the subject of feedback, it’s important to remember that these check-in conversations go both ways.
Just as an employee might receive feedback on their performance, so too could a manager or a team leader learn from these interactions.
After all, these one-on-one talks can help us:
- Gain a better understanding of our employees, clients, or customers
- Respond to the employees’ individual needs
- Discover the strengths and weaknesses of the team
- Workshop the best ways to improve
- Establish channels of communication
Therefore, knowing how to say “just checking in” professionally would also go a long way to promote the development of your leadership communication skills.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Have you noticed that those who feel happy and fulfilled at work also tend to be pretty hardworking? They see the success of their team or company as a personal accomplishment.
Does that sound like an attitude you’d like to see in the people you work with? Well, if you want to know how to encourage your employees to really enjoy their time at work, check out this blog post:
Having established the merits of checking in with the people you work with, let’s go over some ground rules.
First and foremost, you should make sure that your message is warranted. Before you press “send,” check if your reason falls into one of the justified categories we’ve mentioned.
After all, you wouldn’t want to spring a “just checking in” message on a completely unsuspecting business acquaintance. There are other ways to stay in touch with work contacts you don’t interact with every day.
As ever, when in doubt, make sure your message is:
- Short and to the point,
- Relevant to the recipient, and
- Capped with a call to action that would prompt the recipient to respond.
With that in mind, let’s talk about what kind of wording you might use to convey the main idea behind your message.
Whether you want to check in with a coworker, an employee, or a client, sticking to professional subjects will usually be your best bet.
After exchanging greetings, you might say:
“I was wondering how you’re managing your workload.”
“Can we discuss the current project you’re working on for a second?”
“What are your thoughts on that article I sent you?”
“Have you had a chance to go over the new proposal?”
“How have things been going with [name a project or an issue you have previously discussed]?”
“Could you give me a quick update on your assignment?”
Alternatively, you can always simply say:
“Hey, I’m just checking in to see how you are doing.”
While not exactly professional-sounding, the phrase is a classic for a reason.
But if you think that you need to clarify that you specifically want to know how the other person’s work is progressing, here’s what that might look like.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Knowing how to ask the right questions will drastically improve your professional communication skills. So if that’s something you think you should work on, check out this blog post:
At this point, you probably know how to ask for a work update without needing instructions. But, what if that’s not why you want to check in on someone?
What if, instead, you’re dealing with someone whose personal issues have affected their performance at work?
Well, obviously, we always want to give people the benefit of the doubt. So, don’t assume that someone’s performance has suffered because they’ve stopped caring about their job.
Rather, their absentmindedness could be due to:
- Interpersonal issues with their coworkers (or even someone outside of work),
- Difficulty adjusting after coming back from sick (or maternity) leave,
- Having to take care of a sick loved one outside of work hours, or
- A myriad of other reasons.
With that in mind, your “just checking in” message could be as vague or as specific as you need it to be. Here are some example sentences you might use.
“Hey, how are you doing?”
“How’s the year been treating you?”
“I wanted to see how everything is going.”
“It’s been a busy week, hasn’t it? How are you faring?”
“How have you been feeling about [a specific issue]?”
“What’s been going on between you and [a coworker]? Do I need to have a talk with them?”
“Is everything okay with your family? You said your son was sick last week, I hope he’s on the mend now.”
If you’re close to the person you’re addressing, you could get the ball rolling by sending them a video or a meme they might relate to. Here’s what that might look like.
If you decide that the examples we have provided so far don’t convey the extent of your concern, you could try another approach.
Namely, if you know that a coworker has been struggling at work, you could offer them support by saying:
“Please let me know if I can help in any way.”
“I’d love to be of assistance.”
“I’m here if you want to talk.”
“What can I do to support you?”
Even better, you could come into the conversation with a more specific offer, such as:
“Hey, I noticed that Jack was really disrespectful to you earlier in the break room. If you’d like, I could ask HR to talk to him.”
“Have you managed to familiarize yourself with the new software we’re using yet? If the training video I sent you wasn’t helpful enough, we can go over the main points together.”
“Hey, can we talk for a second? I’ve noticed that you’ve been struggling with your assignments lately. If you’re not feeling well, we could extend the deadline for the project or just reassign it. Let me know.”
Of course, you can always combine the different options we’ve discussed in this article. For example, you could ask about the other person’s workload while also offering to support them in the same message.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Asking for help in a professional setting can be pretty challenging. After all, no one wants to look like they don’t know how to do their job.
So if you want to make your coworkers more receptive the next time you offer to support them, have them check out this blog post:
As you’ll soon find out, some of the people you approach with a check-in message may not feel comfortable discussing their issues over text or email.
If nothing else, being able to hear someone’s voice and see their body language may give you some additional information that words alone couldn’t convey.
So how would you expand a check-in text into a phone call or a meeting? Here are some suggestions.
“Would you be open to jumping on a call with me?”
“Let’s catch up soon — are you free next Monday around noon? If not, could you please suggest a better time?”
“I’m free on Tuesdays and Thursdays after 1 p.m. — let me know which of those times would suit you better.”
If you’re going to suggest a one-on-one meeting, you should be the one to mention potential time slots for it too.
Additionally, you should make sure the other person understands why the meeting is necessary.
Having gone through examples of the different ways you might check in on someone you work with — we’re right back where we started.
The dreaded checking-in email!
As a rule, most people don’t check their business email inboxes unless they absolutely have to.
Because of that, our inboxes tend to be pretty cluttered. Thankfully, some of that traffic has been reduced since companies started using instant messaging apps for internal communication.
However, if you’re still set on checking in on a business contact through an email, you might as well do it right.
With that in mind, let’s go over the most common mistakes people make when sending a checking-in email.
As we have previously established, the phrase “just checking in” can feel somewhat offensive when immediately followed by a request for our time.
So if the purpose of your email is to get information and not to see how someone is doing, just say that. In these cases, being indirect can lead to resentment.
On top of that, there’s a handful of other email errors you should try to avoid, namely:
- Guilt-tripping in hopes of getting a faster response (e.g. “I see you haven’t responded to my meeting invite.”),
- Sending a block of text instead of properly formatting your message,
- Burying the lede with a bunch of unnecessary information instead of getting to the point,
- Not following up after your first email goes unnoticed, and
- Not personalizing the message when composing a mass email template for checking in with customers.
These are fairly self-explanatory, but they’ll become even clearer once you learn more about the right way to write a checking-in email.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Ultimately, there are many other disadvantages to trying to get your point across over email. In addition to being more anxiety-inducing than texting, the potential for miscommunication is also much greater.
Conversely, there are many benefits of using instant messaging software for professional communication. To learn more, check out these blog posts:
Work-related emails usually have a pretty high level of formality baked into them. However, there are ways to make your check-in email a more pleasant reading experience.
After writing a proper greeting, simply follow these guidelines (as they apply):
- Start with the context — the reason you wanted to check in with the recipient,
- Explain what kind of update you’re waiting for,
- Remind them to check the previous emails you sent, if necessary, or
- Send a summary of what was previously discussed.
If you’re writing to a person you don’t have much contact with, there are several ways to break the ice. For example, you might start the email by:
- Mentioning a mutual acquaintance,
- Offering something of value (such as a relevant industry article or something else they might be interested in),
- Referencing their work (whether that’s a product, an article, or otherwise), or
- Recommending an event such as a webinar or an in-person conference.
As always, you should maintain an empathetic but professional tone when writing your check-in email.
Having established what constitutes good and bad check-in emails, let’s go through some examples of what your message might look like.
I’m just checking in to see how you are doing.
I’m sorry I had to hand over the reins so suddenly, but I know you’ve got what it takes to be a team leader.
Still, if you need any assistance, I’m an email away.
I know your team has been working hard to prepare for next month’s product launch. I hope everything is going well.
I’ve attached some reports from the launch my team worked on last year in hopes they might help your team somewhat.
If you can think of any other way I could be of use, don’t hesitate to ask.
“Dear Mr. Miller,
It’s been a month since your team started using our product so I wanted to check in on you.
I’d love to hear about your experience with it over a video call on Wednesday at 11 a.m.
Let me know if that time works for you.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the matter,
Customer Support Representative at Katie Co.”
Since we’ve already covered the phrases you might use to check in on someone you work with, all that’s left to do is point out some basic texting etiquette. Namely:
- Be clear and concise but also considerate of the other person’s feelings — and time.
- Try not to send too many separate texts, especially during work hours as that could be distracting.
- Give the recipient time to respond, but don’t hesitate to send another message in case they forget to get back to you (or tell them to set a reminder on your message).
- Bold any important sections of the message, such as meeting time suggestions.
Now that we know how to check up on someone through text, let’s take a look at some example messages you might send.
“Hey Alex. I wanted to drop in and see how your first week is going. Let me know if there’s anything you don’t understand and I’ll be happy to clarify, okay?”
“Hey Jack. I just read the LinkedIn post you wrote yesterday. I’d love to hear more about it. Could we set up a meeting next week?”
“Hello Jenna. I just wanted to see how you’re doing. You were on sick leave for a long time, so it’s okay to take things slow if you need to. The whole team is on standby if you need any support, okay?”
For reference, here’s an example of a bad “just checking up on you” text message. Can you spot what went wrong?
Let’s list the blunders! Nina:
- Sent many short messages, prompting a wave of notifications on Jessica’s end of the conversation,
- Assumed it was her coworker’s first day in a new position and still wanted to schedule a lunch meeting, and
- Didn’t wait for a response before growing impatient.
Judging by the response Jessica is writing, we can see that she didn’t appreciate Nina’s overly enthusiastic response to her promotion.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Most people who are stepping into corporate roles for the first time assume that their business communication will be done through email. Yet, as we have established, instant messaging software is a much more effective way to communicate with our coworkers.
With that in mind, you might want to brush up on your work message skills by reading this blog post:
If there’s one takeaway you get from this blog post, let it be this: try not to send unnecessary check-in messages.
As we have established, “just checking in” messages have a bad reputation — precisely because people have misused the phrase before.
So, if what you really want is to tell a coworker to hurry up with an assignment, just go ahead and say that. It may not make them any fonder of you, but it’ll get your point across.
On the other hand, if you’re truly curious about how a coworker is doing and what you can do to support them, go ahead and send that message.
With any luck, reserving the check-in message format for conveying genuine concern will make people less suspicious of this kind of communication in the future.
✉️ Have you had a chance to use any of the tips we have shared in this article? Do you have more to add?
Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we may include your answers in this or future posts. And, if you found this guide helpful, be sure to share it with someone who needs it.