Async stand-ups for remote teams 

Naveen Kumar

Naveen Kumar

Product Marketing
Remote Stand Ups

What are stand-up meetings?

Stand ups are short and strategic meetings that are usually held daily for the entire team. The main goal of the meeting is to get all team members concordant with a week’s or a sprint’s progress and highlight the hurdles or bottlenecks, if any. To accomplish this goal, team members take turns to answer the three-question template:

  1. What did I do yesterday?
  2. What will I work on today?
  3. Am I blocked on anything?

These three questions, when answered comprehensively by team members, provide visibility into each teammate’s progress on assigned tasks. More importantly, it helps managers identify any obstacles, a.k.a., blockers that might be hindering the team member’s successful completion of the task. Gaining visibility into progress and roadblocks can help managers coordinate efforts to resolve blockers and complete sprints successfully.

In a physical and co-located office, standups are usually short, timeboxed meetings that are short enough to be conducted while participants stay standing up for the duration of the meeting (hence the name!). In distributed or remote teams, stand-up meetings take a virtual avatar and are now mostly held as video meetings. Irrespective of the format, a stand up meeting facilitates high levels of transparency and accountability in the team. It helps to align team members with the team’s and the company’s direction and priorities and helps managers plan roadmaps while accommodating agile practices.

Problems with stand ups in the distributed workplace 

Several distributed teams are increasingly reporting inefficiencies and hardships that are brought about by the video format of the stand-up meeting. Here are the most common ones:

Time zone incompatibility 

Organizing and conducting meetings are easier when a team is co-located or even when a team works remotely but within the same time zone. However, it becomes challenging to schedule meetings in teams that are distributed across several time zones, since there is a higher risk of the meeting invading the personal time of employees in one geographical location.This means a few team members end up sacrificing their time and attend work-meetings post work-hours for the benefit of the entire team, which is unfair and can lead to problems in well-being and team cohesion.

For example, a manager located in San Francisco might schedule the daily stand-up at the start of her day but that would mean that some of her team members located in Asia would have to attend the meeting late at night. Another example is when engineers that are responsible for addressing incidents work long hours and sometimes work overnight to address and resolve issues. When these employees are required to attend early morning stand-up meetings, there might be an impact on their productivity as they might have had little to no time to relax or wind down.  

Disturbance to focus time and deep work

Async work aids in Deep work - Hatica
Async work aids in Deep work – Hatica

Deep work is a productivity practice wherein time slots are blocked as “focus time” to focus completely on one particular core or cognitively demanding task without any interruptions. When stand up meetings are scheduled at a rigid and fixed time, they might cut into the focus time of team members, leading to more context switching where they stop working on their task, attend the meeting, and return to the previous task. This switch between tasks and activities can disturb their thought flow and could potentially lower their productivity. The meeting can also cause delays to tasks if the standup leads to follow ups on different tasks.

Digressing from the agenda

One of the most commonly observed inefficiencies in running synchronous stand-up is that the meetings often end up becoming a troubleshooting call to work synchronously on each teammate’s blockers while the rest of the team stays waiting their turn or multitasking behind the scenes. This inefficient way of running stand-ups often ends up defeating the principle of stand-ups being short timeboxed meetings and end up becoming long and tedious meetings that often do not add value to most people.

Asynchronous stand ups – a productive alternative

Successful distributed teams maximize productivity and well-being by adopting asynchronous work. In async work, individual tasks are completed without real time collaboration. This helps people work at a time that they feel most productive at, and therefore async work enhances the productivity of the entire team and also promotes better work-life balance. In accordance with asynchronous work, stand ups have also transformed to take an async avatar, with the help of communication tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams. 

Async stand-up updates are now sent as text messages in an all-member group channel rather than having a video call. The structure of the stand-up is maintained in the same three question format thus, effectively communicating progress and blockers. These asynchronous stand-up meetings have managed to successfully circumnavigate the drawbacks of the traditional synchronous stand-ups:

  1. Asynchronous stand-ups are respectful of everyone’s time zones. As updates are provided via async communication channels, everyone can provide their updates at their respective working hours rather than a specific time scheduled by the manager.
  2. Asynchronous stand-ups do not disturb focus time and deep work. This can enhance the productivity of the team.
  3. Not attending meetings means that the time saved can be utilized on other tasks or even personal breaks that promote well-being. Particularly, with the growing affliction of zoom fatigue, lesser virtual meetings are a boon to the remote workforce.  
  4. Asynchronous stand-ups come with the added benefit of thorough documentation of everyone’s progress which increases accountability and transparency. It also aids managers in their ability to facilitate team work and help those facing blockers in a more effective and comprehensive way because all necessary information is recorded and can be reviewed and addressed completely.

Power async stand-ups with Hatica

A team’s digital workplace is powered by purpose-built tools for project management, VCS, incident management, team communication, among others and these tools have significantly improved processes to build highly efficient and productive teams. The data from these tools, when correlated with stand-up reports, can provide managers with a comprehensive view of activities, painting a larger picture of the team’s resource allocation, indicators of potential problems like burnout, disturbances in focus time, among others.

Hatica’s async stand-up tool integrates with a team’s existing communication tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc. Hatica prompts team members to provide their stand-up updates on a shared channel. Additionally, it can be configured to run via email or web.

Hatica equips leaders and managers with async stand-up tools along with tools like work explorer that equip leaders with a comprehensive timeline of all activities across various types of tools like project management, git/vcs, incident management, and team communication apps. 

Hatica's check in tool paired with work and activity explorer

💡 Power your asynchronous processes with Hatica’s stand-up tools and preserve your team’s well-being, focus time, and productivity using Hatica’s data-driven work insights.

Request a demo →

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