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The Best Way to Conduct Stand-ups for a Remote Team

Once upon a time, in a physical world, standup meetings were a great way to start the day. Not anymore.

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Once upon a time, in a physical world, standup meetings were a great way to start the day.

Owing to ongoing catch-ups, discussions, and casual conversations that happened around the office, standup meetings were the perfect time to report about tasks to be done.

Standup meetings helped in keeping everyone informed of the status of work and discussing any blockers. And of course, considering the nature of the meeting, it had to be short, to-the-point, and just about work.

Standup in the remote world

When the world moved to remote working, most of the managers resorted to old school stand up meetings to keep themselves abreast of daily happenings.

Then, they slowly realized the ugly truth.

That, standup meetings are boring, demotivating, and not the best way to start their day while working remotely.

A person might claim to work on multiple things on a daily basis but still not produce the best outcome. And someone else might not have much to showcase but still hit their monthly targets. So standup meetings aren't the single source of truth when it comes to judging the progress of the project and productivity of the team.

Also, the syntax of a standup meeting doesn't work for remote. In a work setup where all the meetings are already about work, standup meetings don’t deliver the engagement and motivation required to kickstart a work day.

Why would a bunch of adults who are well aware of their goals and requirements waste 30 minutes of their time waiting for their turn to "report" their status when they can actually spend that time discussing something that would help them get geared up for work.

This is why stand-up meetings are becoming the worst nightmare for remote workers and are being counterproductive to what they actually set out to achieve.

Advent of Slack

Then came along Slack and completely smashed the need to meet for reporting status. It got a lot easier to discuss status over Slack in an async manner than have a face-to-face meeting.

The format is straightforward — have a channel for standup. And update everyone's status in the channel at a set time, preferably start of the day.

However Slack did not solve for everything.

Status updates on Slack never gives room for discussions. Not that it's a bad thing. But, it's just not enough.

Standup 2.0 —  what works for remote

This calls for a change, a transformation in the way we think about meetings, especially standup meetings.

There's no one template that fits all in terms of working when it comes to remote work. You might choose to work during the night and spend time with your family during the day. Or finish up your weekly task over four days and take some time off on other days. It's only fair to account for all of these.

Think about the very nature of remote work. It's autonomy. You get to choose how you work, where you work, and what you need to do to achieve the required outcome. Trying to fit in the style of work that worked in physical offices doesn't work with remote work. Here, the culture needs to be open, free, and collaborative. And that's the change that a standup meeting deserves too — to be open, free, and collaborative.

Ditch standups for check-ins

The only way forward is to understand the actual need for such a meeting. To stop looking at standups as an opportunity to discuss the status and utilize the time to discuss not work or tasks, but things that help with that.

The idea is to have check-ins instead of standups.

A check-in meeting is way more forgiving, open and engaging than a standup.

What does this mean?

A check-in meeting is conducted with an intention of keeping everyone on the same page with respect to goals and priorities. And mainly help everyone get there seamlessly.

Check-ins happen with an underlying assumption that people working in the team are fully responsible adults who understand their jobs to be done. And the objective of the check-in meeting is only to help them attain their goals both individually and as a team.

What happens during a check-in meeting?

The take-away from a check-in meeting is very different from that of a standup. Standup lets you understand the tasks that people are working on. Check-ins help you understand the context, mental state, milestones, and dependencies. The discussion is not around tasks here.

Here are things that you can talk about during a check-in meeting —

Any help needed

Get talking about any help you need or dependencies you have on others to complete your tasks. Discuss cross-functional dependencies, help needed from others, anything that doesn't make sense to you, or anything stopping you from completing your work — be it personal or professional.

Milestones and major updates

Let the team know about any major updates or milestones that you achieved with your work. Milestones might mean shipping new features, making a campaign live, successful onboarding, sharing customer feedback, appreciations, and so on. Take the time to celebrate your hard work with everyone.

Feedback and learnings

Take the time to share feedback on your work or someone else's work. Talk about some interesting work that you stumbled upon or something useful that you read or watched. Discuss your learnings with others so that they can gather some knowledge too.

Mental state

Starting with a basic question of how everyone is doing would normalize mental health in so many ways. Have a non-judgemental routine of opening the floor for some chatter on everyone's state of mind.

The format of check-ins

Check-in meetings are very forgiving. Every meeting starts off with a set of pre-defined tenets that you saw previously and the floor remains open for people to pitch in.  Some might have updates and some might not. Which is okay. Trust that everyone is here to do their job and the call is to help them get there.

The idea is to break the pressure of performing a certain way regularly and to respect the fact that there will be ups and downs in anyone's work life. Also, the discussions are more about helping people achieve their tasks and not around the tasks themselves.

The most important change in the format of a check-in meeting is getting away with round-robin. The feeling of waiting for your turn to talk about something just adds more pressure to "perform" in the meeting. When you leave the floor open, you can always expect people to open up slowly. A great idea is to encourage people by appreciating or providing feedback and asking them to share their learnings, be it good or bad.

Lastly, a basic rule to follow is to leave everyone's video on. Don't be too harsh on presenting yourself in a particular way. Just focus on being present to enjoy the discussion with your tribe who are also your well-wishers.

All this makes sense, but what happens to status reporting anyway? Does having a check-in meeting mean you can totally do away with status reporting?


What you can do instead is continue reporting status or tasks in an async manner. And use the meeting floor for a check-in discussion instead of a standup meeting.

Right tools to host check-in meetings

The entirety of a check-in meeting can be looked upon as a) async status updates b) the check-in meeting itself where you talk about everything that aids with you keeping up with your tasks and status.

The best tool to post about your status updates in an async manner is Slack. Start a channel for status and update the tasks you want to pick up. You can keep updating your list with any adhoc tasks that you pick up as well. You can tag the people you work with and also intimate the team if there are blockers.

When it comes to hosting the check-in meeting itself, Dive is the best place to do so.

You can try any of your existing video conferencing solutions like Zoom, Google Meets, etc if you want it to be just another work meeting. But owing to the nature of the meeting, it's a great idea to pick a space that lets you be casual and interactive.

Dive is more suitable for casual meetings as it encourages better participation. Use emoticons and sounds to react, whiteboard for ideation, and conversation prompts to keep the discussion open, without having to "report" to someone.

Kickstart your check-in journey and have the most exciting time getting things done TOGETHER.


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