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How to hold pain-free remote meetings (with 4 tips to improve your daily stand-ups)

July 23, 2020
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Much has been written about the pain of virtual meetings these days. 

According to one study, 37% of employee time is spent in meetings, meanwhile 47% of employees see meetings as time-wasters. The problem is that for remote teams, meetings are often the only time they get face-time with the larger organization, which is why meeting efficiency and effectiveness is all the more important.

While no one has managed to “fix” the corporate meeting (yet), certain best practices can make meetings exponentially more efficient and tolerable (re: cutting down on weekly time spent on video conferencing), which helps prevent today’s all too prevalent Zoom fatigue. But to minimize Zoom fatigue, team leaders need to first set an intentional weekly meeting cadence—and stick to it. 

Building a weekly meeting schedule with intention is one sure way to begin improving meeting pain points. This means setting a weekly and monthly cadence of meetings to create consistency in both when and how your team comes together. 

Establishing a regular meeting schedule for teams where each meeting holds a clear purpose and agenda can go a long way for boosting productivity. Specifically because when it comes to remote synchronous meetings, different formats play to certain business and team needs better than others. 

Here’s a quick overview of the different meeting structures your remote team can benefit from. 


Understanding different meeting formats

The daily standup

These are short daily status meetings that last for about 15 minutes to bring engineers together so they can share what they’re working on and discuss any project blockers hindering development.

Weekly 1:1s 

1:1s should happen on a weekly basis between managers and reports, and can be virtual or in-person, focusing on project reviews, coaching, and relationship-building. For remote employees, this is an essential touch point with managers for guidance and to boost engagement, as all team members want visibility into their work, and manager support. 

Weekly scrum meetings  

The terms “scrum meeting” and “daily standup” are frequently used synonymously; teams will often call their daily standup a “daily scrum.” No matter the name, these meetings are intended to allow teammates to develop a shared understanding, coordinate efforts, and collaborate on project problems. These meetings should always include members of the immediate project team. According to Range, the three cornerstone questions of a scrum meeting agenda are: What did you do yesterday? What will you do today? What blockers stand in your way?

Bi-weekly sprint planning & retrospectives

These project-focused discussions are essential to align everyone on their workload and velocity. For these meetings, you may not need to bring remote teams in if the entire scrum team is co-located together. 

Monthly engineering team meetings

These large meetings bring the entire team together to share scrum team updates, and get face-time with leadership. Remote teams can join via video but it’s also imperative to record these meetings, and store them in the same location so that everyone can access them later. 

A deeper look into the remote standup meeting

Standups originally got their name because everyone would literally “stand up” next to their desks for the meeting. 

However as more and more teams become remote, it’s important to rethink the standup to be optimized for remote team collaboration. Since a standup is a very transactional meeting they can happen synchronously or through asynchronous communication (for example with software like Range’s check-in product). For synchronous standups meetings, we recommend a cadence of 1-2 times per week. 

Keep in mind these best practices from Range for engaging remote employees in the daily standup: 

  • Use documentation to keep everyone on the same page: Remote meetings can get derailed quickly by lack of focus and engagement. Creating and sharing a meeting agenda and timely meeting notes will go a long way.  
  • Create easy meeting access: There should be a calendar invite for the daily standup meeting and it should always have the conferencing link in it, so that anyone—especially remote workers and those traveling for work that week—can easily join. 
  • Invest in strong video conferencing: One of the most frustrating things for people in daily standups is when a remote employee needs to talk to someone quickly (usually about project roadblocks) and can’t locate them in the video room. “Is Tom there? Tom?…” Consider an employee budget for purchasing the right technology such as high-quality cameras, good lights, and headsets.
  • Ask for feedback: It’s always important to ask for remote employee feedback on team meetings so that they feel tethered to the bigger team, rather than siloed. Ask them about the good, bad, and ugly of the daily standup meetings so you can continuously improve these meeting structures.

It may seem like overkill to put so much thought into how you structure and hold team meetings, but with meetings as such critical touch points for remote teams, these efforts will go a long way in boosting productivity, team morale, and remote collaboration.  

Ready for more tips on building and managing remote teams in our Remote Teams Playbook? Download it here.

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