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Asynchronous standups: Why and how to run them for more productive teams
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Asynchronous standups: Why and how to run them for more productive teams

Discover the benefits, challenges, and tips to run asynchronous standup meetings to boost team productivity and alignment.

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So it’s Friday afternoon and you’re heads-down, trying to get everything done before the weekend. You’re in a flow state and making great progress. Unfortunately, however, it’s morning for your project manager and others on your team, which means you have put down what you’re doing to attend the daily standup call.

What if there was a better way to stay on track with your team? 

Standups are good for getting alignment, but all too often they can turn into an unproductive time suck—and a blocker in themselves. To avoid this, leaders should be bold about using asynchronous standups to give their teams back more time, so they can get work done instead of just talking about it. 

In this post, we’ll cover the differences between real time and async standups and the benefits and challenges of asynchronous standups. We’ll also look at how to do them right to boost team engagement and productivity. 

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What’s the difference between synchronous and asynchronous standup meetings?

With synchronous standups, everyone gets together in person or via video conferencing at the same time each day to share updates. 

With asynchronous standups, you achieve the same standup meeting purpose and outcomes, but on your own schedule. Just share your answers to the daily standup questions via a digital tool when it works for you. Then, catch up on other people’s updates and message individual team members to offer or ask for help. No scrambling to find a meeting room, join a call, or drop what you’re doing to attend.

Table showing differences between synchronous and asynchronous standup meetings
The main difference between synchronous communication and async standups is that you don’t have to join a team meeting for the latter. Source: G2

What are the benefits of asynchronous daily standups?

Asynchronous standup meetings are great for hybrid or remote teams that are spread out across different time zones or locations, but they also work for in-person teams. Teams that use them know that great work doesn't have to happen between nine and five in the same zip code. It's about keeping everyone in the loop while respecting their time and bandwidth.

Here are a few more benefits of asynchronous standups: 

  • More time for actual work. Ever feel like you're spending more time talking about work than actually doing it? Reducing real-time meetings in favor of asynchronous ones gives you back that time—so you can get more done.  
  • Flexibility. With asynchronous standups, team members can provide their updates whenever they're ready. Early bird? Night owl? No problem. You no longer need to rearrange your schedule or log on out of hours to attend a meeting.
  • More efficient and focused. With async standups, there are no side conversations and no listening to updates that aren’t relevant for you. Plus, if they’re trained in asynchronous communication team members’ written updates are likely to be more carefully thought out, clearer, and more concise. 
  • More inclusive. Not everyone shines in person or feels comfortable asking for help, so asynchronous standups make it easier for everyone to participate. They also ensure nobody’s left out if they’re in a different time zone. 
  • You have a record of everything. Digital updates create a paper trail and make it easier to keep track of who's doing what and when. This is also handy for anyone who isn’t able to catch up in the same time frame as others. 
  • Fosters accountability and ownership. When you trust your whole team to provide and read updates, it encourages ownership and transparency. This empowers them to be more autonomous, which can make for happier, more satisfied employees.

Imagine your software development team switches to async standups. As a result, the entire team has more time for focus work. For example, developers get more uninterrupted time for coding and provide clearer, more detailed written answers to daily standup questions. They also upload visual aids to the room, which aids comprehension, leading to fewer misunderstandings, greater productivity, and smoother project progress.

Switchboard room with apps and notes open
Switchboard saves your work, so everything stays right where you left it. Source: Switchboard

What are the challenges of async standups? 

Asynchronous standup meetings have a lot of benefits, but they do come with challenges. Let’s take a look at those next.  

  • Out of sight, out of mind. It's easy for communications to get overlooked when you're not meeting face-to-face. Especially at the start of the day or week, status updates may get lost in the sea of other notifications, and important information can be missed.
  • Delayed responses. Async communication doesn’t involve immediate responses, so if you need to ask follow up questions or get clarification it can take longer. There can also be a lot of back and forth to resolve things. Also, if a team member posts a status update late in the day for them, those in another time zone might not see it till the next day.  
  • Miscommunications. There’s always a risk of misinterpretation with written communication as you don’t get the nuances of tone, inflection, body language, or facial expressions.  
  • Lacks the personal touch. While standups aren’t intended for team building, they do offer opportunities for bonding, particularly when people offer help. This helps keep people engaged and working well together. With asynchronous standups, you miss out on those spontaneous interactions that help build connected teams.

Now you understand the benefits and challenges of asynchronous standups, let’s take a look at how to successfully make the switch.

8 tips to run async standups  

Switching to asynchronous standups can be a game-changer for your team, but it takes careful planning, adaptation, and execution. Here's how you can run effective standup meetings async. 

1. Explain the benefits of async standups to your team

When people understand the “why,” they're more likely to embrace the “how.” Start by educating your team on how creating an asynchronous work culture benefits them. Emphasize the positives above, especially how reducing real-time meetings means fewer interruptions to their day. 

If that’s not convincing, put it into financial terms. According to Shopify, a 30-minute meeting with three employees costs anywhere from $700-$1600. Add more people or a high-level exec, and that goes up. This is a particularly persuasive argument for leaders who struggle to be more hands-off and trust their team without constant oversight. 

2. Set expectations and guidelines 

For async standups to work, your team needs to understand what’s expected of them. Switching to async doesn’t just mean getting out of a meeting—it comes with a whole other set of responsibilities. 

Set clear expectations about: 

  • What updates should include. This helps ensure no critical details are missed. Also, demonstrate how they should be written using examples. 
  • Frequency of updates. For example, every day, every week, etc. 
  • Deadlines for contributions and response times. Make providing updates a part of your team's daily routine. For example, have everyone commit to taking five minutes at the start of their day to add their updates. Then, another five to catch up with everyone else’s news, offer help, etc. Making it a habit helps ensure it doesn’t get sidelined among other tasks.
Pro tip: Create guidelines for async communication and standups. Then, save them in your Switchboard standup room so everyone always knows where to find them and can access them anytime.  

3. Train your teams in async communication

Since synchronous collaboration has been the default for most teams for so long, you should train your team in async collaboration etiquette. For example, they should block time for focus work on their calendar so people know when not to expect a response. They can also turn off notifications during deep work or schedule messages to send later to avoid disturbing others who are in focus time.  

Foster psychological safety so people feel comfortable admitting they don’t understand something or need help. This cultivates an environment where team members are proactive about quickly addressing miscommunications or seeking clarification. This helps avoid misunderstandings and delays.

4. Create a balance between real time and asynchronous communication 

Part of acing async communication involves knowing when to have a live conversation. You can waste a lot of time going back and forth in messages and sometimes it’s quicker and easier to hop on a call to straighten things out.

As a rule, you should have a conversation when: 

  • It’s urgent or time sensitive 
  • The topic is complex or sensitive   
  • You need consensus, input, or to make a collective decision  
  • You’re planning, strategizing, or brainstorming 
  • There’s a risk of misinterpretation
  • You’re teambuilding
  • Your comment thread or Slack thread is getting too long 

If you’re just one-way sharing information and don’t need an immediate response, you can do that async. 

5. Follow up on blockers and action items 

The point of standups is to get alignment and for team members to get help. So if someone mentions a blocker in their update, you need to follow up promptly. Addressing issues quickly can prevent delays and keep projects moving forward smoothly. Also, it builds trust among team members when they see you’ve got their back. 

Designate a team member or manager to monitor team updates and follow up on blockers and action items. This might involve setting up a brief call to discuss the issue in detail or providing additional resources to help overcome the blocker. Someone should also share takeaways and action items from the standup, and assign team members to tasks. There’s nothing worse than turning up to the next standup to find nobody handled the action items from the last one.

Pro tip: Use Switchboard AI to save time summarizing activity and materials in your standup room. Then, pull up a Google Doc and your project management tool to share action items with the team async and update tasks.  
Menu items for Switchboard AI
All browser-based apps work in Switchboard with no need for integrations. Source: Switchboard

6. Establish pathways to escalate issues 

Part of good follow involves making sure your team knows how to escalate urgent matters arising from the async standup. That might involve tagging a specific person on a dedicated “urgent” Slack channel or starting a comment thread on an item in your Switchboard room.  

Whatever you do, ensure everyone understands what constitutes an urgent issue and how to escalate it appropriately. Having a clear process will help prevent bottlenecks. 

7. Use the right tools  

Successful asynchronous standups require a robust–but not bloated–tech stack so people can communicate, share information, and document everything. 

Your needs will vary by team and project, but a few internal collaboration tools you might want include:

  • Asana for project management 
  • Notion for document collaboration
  • Google Workspace for knowledge sharing and storage
  • Figma for design and prototyping
  • GitHub for collaborative software development
  • Standup meeting tools like Geekbot to share async updates 
  • Switchboard for async-first collaboration and real time conversations 

The best communication tools integrate well with your workflows and each other, with features and functionality like searchable history and the ability to easily share information between people and tools. This allows you to build a lean tech stack, keep your costs down, and reduce notification overload and unproductive context switching between tools. 

If you’re using Switchboard as the base of your tech stack, you can create a persistent room for async and real-time standups. Just pull up a Google Doc for people to leave their updates async or hop into the room for a call. Everything stays right where you left it so you can pull up all the tools your team needs for more in-context communication. 

If anyone wants to offer help, they can start a comment thread on a team member’s update and tag them to start a conversation. If the discussion gets complex, Switchboard doubles as a virtual meeting platform, so they can hop into a video call to talk it out. 

Switchboard room with people and comment thread on a room item
You can start a comment thread on anything in a Switchboard room, so you’re always communicating in context. Source: Switchboard

8. Review and adapt  

Switching to asynchronous standup meetings isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it thing. You should regularly get feedback from your team–via Switchboard polls, website surveys, etc.–so you can adjust. This might involve changing the format of updates, tweaking your tech stack, or scheduling synchronous check-ins to complement async comms. 

Asynchronous standups: Stay aligned without the meetings 

So it’s Friday evening again and you’re again scrambling to finish tasks before the weekend. Only now your team has switched to asynchronous standups rather than having them at a specific time. That means you can hop into your Switchboard room before you log off and catch up when it suits you. Overall, you’ve got more time to do work each day rather than talk about it, and standups are no longer an unproductive waste of time or blocker.  

Asynchronous standup meetings offer greater flexibility, inclusivity, and more thoughtful communication. Most importantly, they give you back time for focus work and reduce meeting fatigue. However, they come with challenges, like risk of miscommunication, delayed response times, and lack of personal interactions. 

To avoid these challenges, educate your team on how and why to communicate async—including when to switch to real time conversations. You should also set guidelines and expectations for async standup participation and have clear processes for follow up and issue escalation. 

Most importantly, you need to use the right async communication tools. When you use an async-first collaboration platform like Switchboard, you get persistent rooms that save your work—and all your favorite apps. That means your team can always find what they need, communicate in context, and stay up to date on their own schedule. 

Move faster with fewer meetings.
Switchboard’s persistent rooms let you stay aligned async—giving you more time for focus work. 
Sign up free

Frequently asked questions about asynchronous standup meetings 

What is an asynchronous standup meeting? 

An asynchronous standup is an alternative to traditional, real-time standup meetings. In an async standup, team members share their progress, plans, and challenges via a digital tool on their own schedule. 

What is a virtual standup meeting? 

A virtual standup meeting is an online meeting where team members discuss past and upcoming tasks, progress, and any obstacles. Virtual standups are typically held via video conferencing or chat platforms. You can also run them async using an async-first collaboration platform like Switchboard or dedicated async standup tools like Standuply or Jell. 

What is the difference between a weekly standup and a daily standup? 

The main difference between weekly and daily standups is the length, frequency, and work period under discussion. Daily standups are short, focusing on immediate tasks and blockers from the previous and coming day. Weekly standups focus on work over the previous and following week, so are likely to take longer. They may also have broader scope, like aligning on overarching goals and longer-term project developments.

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Move faster with fewer meetings.

Switchboard’s persistent rooms let you stay aligned async—so you get more time for focus work.