Just Phoning it In? 4 Ways to Keep Daily Remote Standup Calls Valuable

Many teams have recently faced the challenge of transitioning to remote work. Our existing Scrum ceremonies have helped make this shift easier for my project teams. Starting the day with an intentional check-in is already a habit, thanks to our daily standups. But it’s far from “business as usual.”

As Zoom fatigue mounts and the days seem to blend together, it can be hard to keep these calls on track. Here are a few tips to ensure your daily standup remains a valuable use of your team’s time.

1. Reexamine the Purpose

Daily standup is a dedicated time for team members to synchronize their activities. We spend fifteen minutes having everyone answer three questions:

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What will you do today?
  • Are there impediments in your way?

During remote work, your daily standup also provides opportunities for personal check-ins. In some cases, it’s the only time during the day the team can connect for ad hoc conversation. So don’t fret over a couple of extra minutes spent bantering. Try starting the call five minutes early and kicking things off with a quick ice breaker. After updates, let people continue or drop off as desired. Doing so keeps daily standup fresh and engaging and boosts team unity.

2. Remove Barriers to Entry

At the office, you always knew it was time for standup when your teammates circled up around you. But when working from home, it’s easy to get sucked into what you’re doing, lose track of time, and miss standup.

Alongside a calendar notification, put a reminder in the team Slack channel; this helps ensure an on-time start and reduces last-minute fumbling for a Zoom link. Begin regardless of who is or isn’t present, and don’t let it derail the meeting if someone joins late.

3. Bolster Engagement

Set the expectation that standup means cameras are on. Instead of a set order, ask someone to start, then have them choose who’s up next until everyone has shared their update. Knowing when you’re expected to speak can make it easy to tune out until it’s your turn.

From time to time, teammates may need a bit of prompting to get started. There’s a lot going on right now, and this is normal. Be understanding and ready to recall yesterday’s update. It can be difficult to understand how an update relates to the sprint goal on a good day. Pull up the backlog and respective story during standup so everyone is on the same page.

4. Pay Attention to Cues

Daily standup serves as a valuable temperature check of team health and communication, but it should not be the only time the team talks. If you’re taking frequent rabbit trails, that may be a sign that the team is saving up all conversation for these fifteen minutes.

Be on the lookout for vague “in progress” updates, and ask if the information is clear to everyone. Encourage everyone to surface blockers as soon as they occur instead of waiting for standup.

What strategies have helped keep your daily standups fresh and informative?