Ultimate guide to remote standups: challenges, tools, solutions

Published on
May 2, 2023

As remote work becomes increasingly popular, distributed teams face new challenges in maintaining productivity, communication, and cohesion. One essential practice for remote teams is the daily standup meeting. But with team members scattered across different locations and time zones, conducting live standups can be tricky. 

In this guide, we’ll explore the challenges of remote standups and share the best tools and practices to make them more effective. Whether you’re a senior engineer, manager, tech lead, or product manager at a small or midsize company, you’ll learn how to run efficient, engaging, and fun standups that boost team morale and keep everyone on the same page.

So let’s dive in! 🤿

Benefits of standup meetings for remote teams

Before we dive into the best practices for remote standup meetings, let’s first discuss why they are essential for distributed teams. While remote work has its benefits, such as flexible schedules and no commuting, it can also lead to isolation, miscommunication, and lack of accountability. That’s why daily standup meetings can be a game-changer for remote companies. 

By providing a daily opportunity for team members to connect, share progress, and raise any issues, standups promote transparency, collaboration, and alignment. They also help to foster a sense of team spirit and accountability, which is crucial for remote workers that may not have the chance to interact face-to-face. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of standup meetings for remote teams. 🌟👥

Increased collaboration and trust

One of the primary benefits of standup meetings for remote teams is that they increase collaboration and trust. In a remote work setting, it's easy for remote employees to feel isolated or disconnected from the rest of the team. By holding regular standups, team members get to hear from each other about what they're working on, what challenges they're facing, and how they're progressing towards their goals. This not only helps to keep everyone on the same page but also fosters a sense of community and shared purpose.

Improved team engagement

In a remote work setting, it can be challenging to keep team members engaged and motivated from afar. Daily standups provide an opportunity for team members to connect, share progress, and receive feedback, which can help to keep them engaged and focused on their work.

When team members participate in standup meetings, they feel more connected to their colleagues and to the work they're doing. They also have a better understanding of how their work fits into the bigger picture, which can help to increase their motivation and engagement. 

Identifying and minimizing roadblocks

Daily standup meetings provide an opportunity for team members to share any issues or challenges they're facing, which can help to identify roadblocks early on.

By identifying roadblocks early, the team can work together to find solutions and minimize the impact on project timelines. This can help to prevent delays and ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget. Additionally, by addressing roadblocks as they arise, team members can feel more empowered and motivated to tackle challenges head-on, which can help to increase overall team productivity.

Deepened team understanding of projects 

Remote standup meetings provide an opportunity for team members to share updates on their progress and discuss the status of the project. This open and collaborative approach to communication helps to deepen the team's understanding of the project as a whole.

When team members have a deeper understanding of the project, they are better equipped to make informed decisions and take appropriate action. Additionally, when team members feel like they understand the big picture, they are more likely to feel invested in the success of the project and the company as a whole.

Challenges for remote standups

While remote standup meetings offer many benefits for distributed teams, they also come with their fair share of challenges. Next, we'll explore some of the common challenges that teams face when running remote standup meetings, and provide tips on how to overcome them. By addressing these challenges head-on, you can ensure that your team's remote standup meetings are productive, engaging, and effective.

Lack of engagement

Without the in-person dynamic that comes with traditional team meetings, it can be easy for remote employees to feel disengaged or disconnected. This can lead to a lack of participation, which in turn can make it difficult for the team to stay aligned and make progress towards their goals.

A lack of engagement is particularly detrimental because it can erode team morale and cohesion. When team members don't feel connected to each other, they may be less likely to collaborate and support each other in achieving their goals. Additionally, a lack of engagement can make it difficult for team leaders to track progress and identify potential issues early on. If team members aren't fully participating in the standup meeting, they may be less likely to raise concerns or ask for help when they need it.

Different time zones

Another common challenge that teams face with remote standup meetings is dealing with team members in different time zones. When team members are spread across different regions or countries, scheduling a time for a synchronous meeting that works for everyone can be difficult. This can lead to team members having to wake up early or stay up late in order to participate in the meeting, which can be detrimental to their productivity and work-life balance.

When team members are unable to participate in the standup meeting due to time zone differences, they may miss out on important updates or be unable to ask questions or offer feedback in real-time. This can make it difficult for them to stay aligned with the rest of the team and may lead to misunderstandings or delays in project progress.

Insufficient preparation

Without proper preparation, team members may not have all the necessary information to contribute effectively. This could lead to a lack of engagement and team members feeling disengaged from the project. Additionally, team members may be unprepared to share progress updates, leading to a lack of clarity and a loss of momentum. This can be especially challenging for remote teams who may not have the luxury of in-person communication to clarify any misunderstandings or gaps in information.

Tools to empower your remote team’s standups

To overcome the challenges of remote standup meetings, there are a few tools that can empower teams to have productive and efficient meetings. These tools can help teams to collaborate, communicate, and track progress in real-time, even when team members are in different locations. Here are some of the best tools available for remote standup meetings and how they can benefit your team.

Standup meeting tool

A standup meeting tool is a solution designed to help teams conduct efficient and productive standup meetings. These tools typically provide features such as automated status updates, progress tracking, and team collaboration tools. Using a standup meeting tool can help remote teams streamline their meetings, reduce time spent on administrative tasks, and provide a structured framework for discussion.

Spinach is like an AI Scrum Master. It's specifically designed to help remote teams run effective meetings, send summaries and action items, and manage your tickets for you, based on what's discussed in your meetings. Not only does this take "busy work" off the team's plate, but it also provides teams with context from the prior standup, so they are better prepared to give a clear update.

Spinach integrates with popular communication tools such as Slack, Jira, Zoom, and Google Meet, making it easy for team members to stay connected and informed.

With Spinach, teams can automate their standup meeting summaries, eliminating the need for time-consuming manual updates. Spinach sends automated standup reminders to team members with context from the prior standup. Spinach joins your standup and provides shockingly accurate meeting summaries and action items and suggests any ticket updates based on your discussion.

Video conferencing tool

While audio-only standup meetings can work in a pinch, video conferencing tools with standup meeting integrations offer a more engaging and productive remote standup experience. With video conferencing tools, team members can see each other’s facial expressions, body language, and gestures, which can help build trust, rapport, and team spirit.

It's important to use video conferencing tools that are user-friendly and have integrations for standup meetings to ensure an efficient and seamless experience. Spinach, for example, integrates with popular video conferencing tools like Zoom and Google Meet, making it easy to facilitate standup discussion and generate meeting summaries.

Instant messaging tool

Although synchronous meetings are crucial for teams to stay aligned, asynchronous communication is just as important. Instant messaging tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams help to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to project progress. They also offer additional features like file sharing, threaded conversations, and integrations with other project management tools. These features can help streamline communication and make it easier for team members to stay up-to-date with project progress.

With an instant messaging tool, team members can easily provide updates on their progress, ask questions, and share resources with each other. This helps to keep everyone on the same page and ensures that progress is being made towards project goals.

How to have productive standups with a distributed team

While remote work can present unique challenges for team collaboration, using the right tools and techniques can help make standup meetings efficient, engaging, and valuable for the entire team. Here are some tips and best practices for having effective standups with a distributed team, so you can keep your team aligned and moving forward towards your goals.

1. Establish a regular meeting time

Keeping the time and meeting place consistent is essential for remote standups as it helps to create a sense of structure and routine.. When team members know when to expect the standup, they can plan their schedule accordingly and ensure that they are available and prepared for the meeting. 

Having a consistent meeting time and day can help to build team cohesion and improve communication by ensuring that everyone is on the same page. Make sure this specific time is convenient for everyone and to stick to it as much as possible to avoid confusion or scheduling conflicts.

2. Start and end on time

Starting and ending a standup meeting on time is crucial for maintaining team discipline and productivity. When standups are delayed, it can impact team members' schedules and lead to a loss of valuable working hours. Running over the allotted time for a standup can cause team members to lose focus and attention, which can harm the effectiveness of the meeting. By keeping to the scheduled time, team members can better manage their schedules and focus their attention on the key topics discussed during the standup. 

3. Use the standard standup format and adjust it as necessary

The standard standup format is a structured approach to conducting meetings that can help remote teams stay aligned and focused. In this format, team members take turns answering three key questions about their work: what they accomplished since the last meeting, what they plan to accomplish before the next meeting, and any roadblocks or challenges they're facing. This format can be adjusted to meet the specific needs of your team.

What did I do yesterday?

Team members answering this question in a remote standup allows everyone to have visibility into what tasks were completed the previous day, providing context for the current status of the project. It helps team members identify any overlaps or dependencies and promotes a sense of accountability. 

What am I planning to do today?

Asking team members what they plan to do for the day in a remote standup provides clarity on the tasks to be accomplished for the day. It helps in the identification of any risks or dependencies for the day's work, and helps team members prioritize their tasks accordingly. 

What is blocking my progress?

Asking this question in a remote standup encourages team members to share any issues or roadblocks they are facing. It allows for quick identification and resolution of issues and helps the team members stay on track with their work. By sharing these roadblocks, team members can receive support and guidance from their peers and pinpoint a solution. 

4. Promote engagement with a standup tool

One of the key challenges in conducting effective remote standups is maintaining engagement among team members. This is where standup tools can make a significant difference. By providing a centralized platform for team members to report on their progress, goals, and roadblocks, these tools help to promote engagement and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Spinach is an example of a standup tool that can help to promote engagement and enable more effective standups. With engagement features like icebreakers, timed updates, and speaker rotations, Spinach makes it easy for team members to participate in standups and stay connected with their colleagues. 

5. Stay focused and park discussions for later in the Parking Lot

Staying focused during a remote standup meeting is crucial for efficiency and productivity. It is important to keep the discussions on track and avoid getting sidetracked by unrelated topics. One way to do this is to use a Parking Lot, which is a designated space for discussions that are not directly related to the standup agenda. 

With Spinach, you can easily create a Parking Lot and move discussions that are not relevant to the standup meeting to this area. This helps keep the standup meeting focused on the main items while also ensuring that important discussions are not forgotten. 

6. Spotlight achievements and recognize team efforts

Recognizing achievements and team effort is an essential aspect of building a positive team culture, especially in a remote work environment. According to Gallup, 74% of employees who say their team receives praise strongly agree that they "have the feeling that what [they are] doing at work is valuable and useful."

During standup meetings, team members should highlight any wins from the previous day or week, so that the team can celebrate those successes. Acknowledging team members' hard work and progress also helps to build trust and foster a sense of belonging among team members. 

Being recognized for their efforts will motivate team memebrs to keep up the good work and feel more invested in their projects. Plus, highlighting wins and progress can help th team see how their work is contributing to the overall success of the project and organization. 

Supercharge your remote standups with Spinach

Remote standup meetings are crucial for distributed teams to stay aligned and productive. However, there are challenges to overcome, such as a lack of engagement, conflicting time zones, and inadequate preparation. By using the right tools, such as a standup meeting tool, teams can energize remote standups. 

Spinach is a standup tool that helps teams prep for standup by giving them context from the last standup. It takes meeting notes, documents action items, and suggests updates to your board based on what was said. Use Spinach to ensure your remote standup meetings are productive and efficient. Try Spinach today!