The year 2020 has upended how people go about their workday. For knowledge workers, offices are empty, whiteboards are gathering dust, and all social bonding time now occurs within the four corners of a laptop screen. While some people are accustomed to working on teams with remote colleagues spread across a region or even across the globe, not being able to see most of your colleagues in person might be a whole new ballgame for you.
It’s crucial managers and teams allow for time to adjust to this new reality. There are no cookie-cutter answers for all the nuanced questions managers face on to how to best adapt a team. But it's also a big opportunity to take a hard look at processes established when everyone was in the same office and explore options that work better not just for an environment when everyone is WFH, but ones that may set you up for success for a hybrid model.
More and more organizations are developing hybrid models, trying to combine the benefits of working from home with the best parts of working from an office. There ’s a lot to consider to make sure those models are inclusive, and everyone is able to engage in meaningful ways.
We think a good place to start is the daily standup meeting. It’s used far and wide, and has been synchronous from its inception. But many find standups don’t stand up as well when everyone is everywhere else.
Here are some ways to think through an approach to standups that can also work in a hybrid environment.
For the past century, being in the same place and on the same timetable was a requirement for most teams. But as more companies adopt remote policies with flexible work schedules, confining everyone to these outdated rules doesn't make sense, particularly when it comes to doing standups.
First, there isn't a centralized place for everyone to stand up together. It's hard to replicate the same openness you get in a co-located meeting through video calls where the usual non-verbal social cues are noticeably missing. The absence of these cues adds psychological stress, making Zoom calls more mentally taxing and less free-flowing. On top of this, using the standup to impose an artificial start time to the workday or keep tabs on how many hours each team member works are not only unsustainable solutions to a long-term problem, it erodes trust. It's about results, not people’s hours.
It’s time to ditch some of these bad habits.
The task then is to create new ways for everyone to share and connect on projects that help keep things moving forward. Some parts of your standup may still work in a remote context. Keeping strict time limits is a good example. But many will need to change.
At a basic level, the daily standup is a quick, time-boxed meeting to sync with other contributors on work that's inflight. Each person shares completed items and any blockers in their way. When the session wraps, everyone should be on the same page, feel a sense of shared camaraderie, and get the help they need.
Some of this can occur asynchronously using productivity tools like Slack or Range. For example, sharing updates about upcoming work, highlighting specific documents for completed tasks, and adding context about an issue are all great ways to ‘offline’ part of the digital standup experience using apps.
But other elements that require more active collaboration from contributors—such as social bonding and trusting that their work aligns with the team’s goals—need a face-to-face tactic. The synchronous meeting comes into play here. The 10 to 15-minute recurring video call is the perfect place to ask questions about prioritization and get clarification on something in real-time instead of it needlessly devolving into a drawn-out Slack thread.
There are also opportunities to use a mix of both methods, sync and async, to ensure all team members, no matter their time zone or work schedule, feel included in the process and supported in their work. Taking on this type of hybrid work model requires managers and facilitators to be sensitive to their team’s changing needs and intentionally build each individual up to do their best work.
Some people will lean on asynchronous communication for reporting progress and issues more, and others will get most of their answers through a short video chat. If you design this process well, it’ll work wonders for everyone without adding lengthy meetings or creating a bulky, bureaucratic structure.
Design each part to do what it does best
So, how do you go about designing a hybrid ‘standup’ experience for your team?
Keep it simple in the beginning. Think about the three main functions of the daily standup mentioned above: knowledge sharing, removing blockers, and allowing people to connect and feel like they’re a part of one big unified team. The decide which method, sync or async, works best for each. For example:
Here’s an example scenario:
The scenario above is one of many where a dynamic hybrid standup meeting can help. Experiment and ask around to discover how other teams handle this shift in the workplace. Some may break standups down into even smaller, more localized groups, and provide an async update to other teams in other offices right after the local standup.
Making updates to your work traditions will definitely take time and require many adjustments along the way. But the last thing you want to do is attempt to force old solutions on a new problem without considering how your team’s fundamental needs have changed, and how they'll change when "back to normal" is a very new normal.
For the daily standup meeting, breaking it into its parts and building new solutions to meet those needs can help your team become more flexible and resilient, more connected, and actually build a better version of the standup — one that is well-tuned to hybrid work.
And check out our Guide to Standup Meetings to learn more about the ins and outs of standups, and how to get them right for your team.