It’s been a couple of days since you last heard from a coworker who is in charge of a very important project implementation. The deadline is coming up soon, and you’re planning on reaching out to said coworker to get the latest update.
You are trying your best to resist the urge to use “A gentle reminder” or “Just checking in” in your email or a team chat message.
Yet, you are still unsure how to formulate your message to sound professional and polite but not overly insincere.
If this sounds familiar, you’ve come to the right place.
In this blog post, we’ll:
- Define update requests.
- Outline different types of update requests at work.
- Detail key steps to crafting a professional update request.
- Offer examples of asking for an update professionally.
Let’s get started!
- An update request is a written request sent to a person you’ve communicated to before about a previously discussed matter.
- Since an update request is common in the business world, it is important to optimize it to meet professional standards — to start them with a greeting, provide enough information and end them in a thoughtful manner.
- An effective update request is well-timed and brief.
- While writing an update request, you should eliminate all the unnecessary phrases and redundancies.
- Writing lengthy update requests will not catch the recipient’s attention and get maximum responses.
Table of Contents
An update request is a written request sent to a person you’ve communicated to before about a previously discussed matter.
In most cases, professionals are using email for formal update requests.
However, with the rise in team chat technology, many organizations have switched to business chat apps for both internal and external communication. For example, team messaging apps like Pumble, support fully-managed guest access. This feature allows organizations to move away from email entirely, even for third-party communication.
Each time you write to a coworker requesting information or action, or to a client reminding them to take action, you’re sending an update request.
Requesting and responding to update requests is probably the most common business writing activity for most professionals across many industries.
This is why it’s imperative to optimize these types of work messages to meet a professional standard.
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Depending on the formality level with the person you’re requesting an update from and the specific work situation, we can distinguish several types of update requests you may encounter in workplace communication:
- Following up after a job interview — A thank-you note or a follow-up sent to a hiring manager expressing gratitude and interest in the company and the position you interviewed for.
- Asking for status updates — Writing to a coworker or a third-party contractor to ask about tasks or project progress updates.
- Reminding someone of an important event or a deadline — A brief note to remind your team members about an important deadline that’s coming up. Or, a quick reminder about an industry event sent to people you network with.
- Building a connection or catching up — An email or a message sent to people from the industry you network with to catch up and keep the conversation going, or to a sales lead to continue building the connection.
Saying thank you — An email or a message sent to coworkers, connections, clients, partners, or leads to express gratitude for their help, great work, connection, or their time.
Now that you know what update requests are, it is time to see how to ask for an update politely and professionally.
Here is a step-by-step process.
First impressions last, regardless if you communicate in person or over email.
As mentioned earlier, there’s a certain standard of professionalism and politeness that is expected in business communication, especially if you’re writing to clients or business partners you’re not on a first-name basis with.
However, failing to include a polite greeting in your work messages can seem rude and aggressive, even when you’re shooting a message to a teammate in a team chat.
You don’t necessarily need to go above and beyond in an introductory greeting — but, a few simple words can make a big difference in how your message comes across.
Here’s how a few polite phrases can make a big difference:
Example #1: How you shouldn’t open your update request
“Please send over a status update on the final logo design for client X.”
Example #2: How you should open your update request
Could you please give me a quick status update on the final logo design for client X? We need to include it in all the designs and have everything ready for final review on Monday.
Today, there’s hardly anything professionals dread more than a “Just checking in” message in their overflowing inbox.
It’s up there with “circle back” in terms of the amount of negative feelings it can cause to people on the receiving end of these phrases.
Hence, you should refrain from using cliché business phrases that no one likes to hear in corporate communication.
First of all, you risk sounding like someone using the lazy route to politeness while creating the opposite, insincere effect.
In addition, these phrases add no value to either party and have no other effect than to prolong getting to the main point of your request.
Example #1: What kind of phrases you shouldn’t use when formulating your update requests
“Just checking in to see when you’ll be available to meet this week. I’d like to pick your brain on the [industry trend].”
Example #2: What kind of phrases you could use when formulating your update requests
“Hi, how are you? Please let me know if you’re free sometime this week to meet for lunch. I’d like to hear your thoughts and discuss some ideas on the [industry trend].”
It’s critical to show people you communicate with that you respect their time.
According to the latest email statistics reports, in 2023, around 347.3 billion emails were sent per day. And we can only imagine what this number looks like for business chat messages.
Now, imagine if all these emails or messages were too detailed and long — people would have no time to work, they’d be reading messages all day!
So, to make lives easier for the people receiving your messages, check your update request for clarity:
- Eliminate all unnecessary phrases and redundancies.
- Avoid using words that have multiple connotations.
- Remove any filler words.
- Be as clear and as straightforward as possible.
- Use active voice.
Paying attention to clarity when formulating your update requests not only conveys professionalism and shows respect for people’s time but also improves your chances of getting a timely response.
Let’s see how the update request would look like following these tips.
Example #1: An example of an ambiguous update request
“As you know our company’s Management Board had a meeting today. A decision to move on with the X proposal for the project was made by the members. Please let me know via some of our communication platforms if you can manage to get the files ready in 10 days.”
Example #2: An example of a clear and straightforward update request
“The board decided to go with the X proposal for the project. Please let me know if you can prepare the files in 10 days.”
Another great practice when you want to ensure maximum time efficiency in your update conversations is to use open-ended questions.
Starting your questions with Why, What, and How, for example, will provide a solid ground for receiving detailed replies, instead of one-word answers.
Open-ended questions reduce the number of back-and-forth emails or messages and improve overall productivity and communication quality.
Example #1: Don’t use questions such as
“Do we have any updates on task X?”
Example #2: Use open-ended questions
“What’s the status of task X?”
In some instances, you may need to clarify the next steps you want the person to take — i.e. a call to action.
Whereas in most regular update requests both parties are clear on the next steps, there are specific situations in which you need to specify the desired action more clearly.
Best practice examples suggest highlighting a call to action by placing it in the last paragraph of your emails and messages, before the greeting part.
For example, if the matter you need an update on requires additional actions besides the email reply, make sure to communicate your expectations in a clear call to action.
Be sure to include any additional information the person may need to comply with your request.
CTA can be anything from:
- Instructions about the next steps,
- A phone number,
- An address, or
- A specified time or date.
Here’s an example of how a proper CTA could look:
“Could you please also have a quick call with Jane Smith to ensure the figures align across all departments?”
Say you’ve met a potential lead during an industry networking event. They’ve expressed interest in your business services or a product and asked to continue the talk over email. Or, your PR team may have made the initial connection.
These and similar scenarios require you to provide more context in the beginning before you get to the point in your update request.
Hence, add something along the lines of:
“As [PR person name] mentioned…”
“Over [event name] we talked about [subject matter] and you mentioned…”
This gives a brief context and reminds the person you’re writing to about your previous discussion.
In addition to showing common courtesy, this practice also ensures that you’re disclosing enough information, which can improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the communication.
Make sure to include a “because” when asking for an update.
This one simple word can make a huge difference to how recipients perceive your update request messages.
In a 1978 study called “The Mindlessness of Ostensibly Thoughtful Action: The Role of “Placebic” Information in Interpersonal Interaction”, Harvard researcher Ellen Langer discovered that the word “because” carries immense power.
Interestingly, the study showed that people are more likely to respond positively to a request if it includes the word “because” regardless of whether it’s followed by a reasonable justification or not.
So, next time you’re asking someone for an update, consider adding a “because” followed by a reasonable justification to increase the compliance rate.
Here’s an example of a proper justification for your update request:
“I would love to see the numbers you drew for the X project because I’m presenting in a meeting tomorrow and it would be great to have the full picture. Would you mind sharing an update by 5 p.m. today?”
Assigning a clear date and/or time ensures timely delivery and creates a sense of urgency when needed.
Still, it is important to set a reasonable deadline to leave enough time for the recipient to complete the requested task.
At the same time, you don’t want to make it too flexible and risk the recipient labeling your message as not urgent, and potentially forgetting all about it.
When in doubt, you can always ask them to confirm if the suggested time frame works for them.
This way, even if your colleagues cannot deliver what you need within the time frame you’ve given them, they can inform you about an exact time when they will do what you need.
Here’s an example of setting a reasonable deadline:
“I would like to include your plan in our proposal presentation. Please let me know if you can send it over by 5 p.m. tomorrow.”
Don’t forget to close your emails or team chat messages following the same principles of polite and professional business communication.
Whether you’re requesting an update from a teammate or asking a client to update you on the results they’ve achieved with your product, it’s always important to end your request on a polite note.
Simple phrases such as: “Thank you for your time” or “Thanks for your help” are a great way to express gratitude and remain concise.
Even if you’re communicating over a business messaging app, it’s still appropriate to add a closing line, even if it’s just a quick “thank you” and an emoji.
When you’re following up or catching up with a potential client you want to build a connection with, you may need to provide an element of added value.
As you’re essentially asking something from them — whether it’s their time or attention — it’s always a good idea to give something in return.
Provide value first and you will feel more comfortable asking for an update on your previous conversation, a call, or a meeting.
Moreover, you’re more likely to get a favorable response if you lead with a favor.
After all, it’s a common human tendency to feel urged to give something in return for reciprocating a favor.
For example, you can share a link to a resource they would find valuable, or offer free access to a webinar or a course that features solutions to their particular pain points.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
If you want to learn more about how to successfully ask for a favor in a professional setting, read our in-depth guide on the blog:
If you’re looking for a more appropriate substitute for “just checking in”, here are some useful phrases and examples you can use when asking for an update.
From requesting a status update to following up on a job interview, we’ve covered several common professional update scenarios.
Managers are frequently tasked with asking their team members for updates on tasks and projects.
Here are some additional examples of how to request an update from employees, following the tips we listed earlier.
“Hi Jordan, you mentioned yesterday you were expecting a response/results/update from [XYZ]. Is there any news?”
“Hello Millie, have you received a meeting invitation yesterday? We need your confirmation because we want to find a suitable meeting time that works for everyone. Thanks!”
Have you had a chance to complete the project?
We need it by 5 p.m. because the meeting is at 6 p.m. Let me know if you need help/more time.
Since you spend a large part of your working days with your colleagues, you will, in most cases, use more friendly and less formal ways of communicating with them.
Hence, you can be more direct and friendly with them.
But, of course, you always need to remain within the boundaries of respectful communication.
Here are some examples of requesting an update from colleagues.
“Laura, I need your help. Please give me your notes from the last meeting, I forgot mine in the car.”
“Hey Begbie, have you heard back from Mark? Please call me as soon as he confirms the offer.”
“Hello, Judie. Can you please send me the reports about the last year’s financial turnover? Thanks, Rick!”
Follow up after a job interview is the single most effective way to:
- Express your gratitude to the hiring manager and the team that conducted the interview for their time and consideration.
- Show your enthusiasm and interest in the company and the position you interviewed for.
- Demonstrate your proactivity.
- Get more information on your application status.
- Improve your chances of getting the job.
Here is an example you can use as inspiration when requesting an update after a job interview.
Thank you very much for your time last week — it was a great pleasure meeting you all and discussing the X role.
I left our call feeling assured that ABC company shares my values and promotes the work culture I aspire to be part of.
I especially enjoyed speaking about [X job requirement], because it provides an interesting challenge I would like to commit to resolve.
I’m looking forward to your update.
Please let me know if there’s anything else I can provide at this stage of the application process.
Always try to maintain a more formal and professional tone in your client communication.
Here is what update requests from potential clients could look like.
Hope this week’s been treating you well.
I really enjoyed our conversation on [industry topic/common pain point] last week.
Hope you found the [X resource] useful in resolving the [Y issue]. Let me know if there’s anything else that can be done on my end to set everything up.
Looking forward to seeing you at [Z industry event]. We can chat more over lunch.
Just listened to your latest podcast episode on [industry topic]. I liked how you encapsulated the key points of [industry strategy].
That’s exactly what we’ve been trying to address with our [strategy/product/service].
Let me know if you’re free to talk about potentially working together sometime this week. I’m available Tuesday through Friday around lunchtime.
Hope we can arrange a call soon.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
If you are looking for additional ways to approach potential clients, check out our guide for writing winning sales emails for your business:
Now that you know how to create a perfect update request, let’s sum up everything we talked about and see the most important characteristics of an effective update request.
First and foremost, a professional update request needs to be formulated with common business communication etiquette in mind.
This includes everything from a polite and professional tone and style to an appropriate level of formality depending on the nature of a professional relationship between the sender and the recipient.
For example, if you’re communicating with a team member you’ve known for years, it would be fine to phrase an update request like this:
“Please send over a status update for project X. Thanks.”
However, in more formal communication with a client, for example, this phrasing borders on rude and can be even considered aggressive.
A more polite and professional update request would include a polite greeting and closing, in addition to more context and overall a more polite wording and tone.
Here’s an example:
Hope you are doing well.
I’m writing regarding the project X. Could you please provide me with a status update?
Thank you for your help.
In most cases, it’s appropriate to wait at least 4 to 5 days after the initial contact, email, or meeting before sending an email or a message asking for an update.
Of course, there will be specific, more urgent situations where it would be perfectly reasonable to reach out even earlier.
Furthermore, well-timed update requests also include checking people’s availability status before you hit send, if you’re communicating via business messaging apps.
You want the recipients of your messages to understand your intended meaning right away with no room for multiple interpretations.
Hence, clarity is another key aspect to consider when asking for an update in a professional setting.
In business environment and cross-cultural contexts especially, it is crucial to avoid the following:
- Vague expressions,
- Annoying corporate buzzwords, and
- Any phrasing or business jargon that is prone to misinterpretation.
Your update request should always contain the most important information about the subject you are enquiring about.
Hence, make sure that your update request contains all the crucial details regarding:
- Place, or
All these concrete pieces of information ensure there’s no ambiguity and no additional back-and-forth emails or messages.
The modern-day business world is fast-paced, so it is crucial to be brief and concrete in your requests.
Even in the best-case scenario, when your request update reaches the most organized professional who labels and categorizes their emails right away, you still want to make your message brief and skim-friendly.
Rare are the people who have time to read long and detailed emails.
This is because the work environment of professionals includes an overflowing inbox of emails they read on the go.
Hence, keep your requests short and sweet.
Workplace communication, by default, requires a certain level of politeness and professionalism.
Showing respect to the people you communicate with in business and paying attention to the tone and the style you use is not only considered common courtesy, but it’s essentially imperative in workplace communication.
In addition to meeting standard requirements, update requests call for an even higher degree of professionalism due to the specific nature and purpose of these types of messages.
When we ask someone for an update, it generally implies that we need something from that person — whether that’s a piece of information, their attention, or time.
Regardless of the purpose of our request, we must take into consideration one of the key factors that may affect how our message will be received and acted upon — people’s attention spans are shrinking.
This means that your emails and team chat messages have to be
- Polite, and
Otherwise, your requests will not catch the recipient’s attention or get maximum responses.
When you want to ask for an update at work, it is much easier to do so when you use a team communication app such as Pumble.
Hence, you might get responses quicker and the chances that your messages would be lost among others are minimal.
On the other hand, if you want to ask for an update on behalf of the whole team, channels might be the best Pumble feature for you.
By asking a question in channels, everybody will get a chance to see the answers and participate in potential discussions. Therefore, misunderstandings between colleagues are reduced to a minimum.
If all these features look appealing to you, don’t waste time! Try Pumble today!