Team Updates: Keeping Them Short and Efficient
In 2019, professionals wasted 2 hours per week on pointless meetings. In total, around 24 billion hours are wasted on fruitless meetings every year, translating into over half a trillion dollars thrown down the drain. If this depressing bit of data doesn’t make you re-evaluate how you handle team updates, nothing will.
Even the pandemic couldn’t dampen the basic human need to hold endless meetings. In 2020, virtual 1:1 meetings increased by a jaw-dropping 1,250%, while online team meetings increased by 613% in the same year.
“Ok” you might think, “they just moved all in-person meetings online, right?” Wrong. All these virtual meetings made up only 42% of all meetings held. The worst thing is that a significant portion of time spent in meetings was probably wasted.
Team updates are a big part of those meetings. Status updates mainly, as they have to be held regularly and require all members of the team to be there. As the statistics above have shown, not even remote teams are spared sitting through all of them.
When many of us switched to remote or hybrid work, keeping up with how everyone was doing became even more challenging. You couldn’t simply drop by someone’s office and see how they were progressing, and there weren’t any water cooler conversations to check for new developments.
The sad truth is that a lot of these team meetings are necessary. Nearly every type of work requires synchronization between team members and weekly updates are a huge part of project management.
However, it isn’t necessary for these meetings to be long and unproductive. By adjusting how and when you hold team updates, you can make them meaningful, shorter, and more efficient. Thankfully, there are tried & tested methods you can stick to that will help you achieve that.
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Three reasons why you need to change how you handle team updates
Before we cover how best to handle team updates, we should first explore the effects poorly managed update meetings have on team members. This is a good starting point if you’re wondering why you would shake things up when everything seems to work well. In most cases, you’re probably wasting a lot of time and impairing productivity without even realizing it.
Let’s get into the most common failings you might face if you don’t optimize how you hold team meetings and other team events.
They last so, so long
One of the biggest gripes team members have with team updates or meetings, in general, is their length. A recent survey revealed that knowledge workers, on average, spend 10 hours per week in meetings. This is five times more than in pre-COVID times.
Humans seem to have an uncanny ability to make even the simplest, straightforward meeting into a two-hour affair.
This wouldn’t be such a problem if this time were spent wisely. However, these large meetings often end up re-enacting one of two scenarios. In the first scenario, the team updates meeting consists of people simply sharing their status and progress. Here, only one person is actively talking, whereas others passively wait their turn and go back to sleep.
In the second scenario, team members quickly derail the meeting’s agenda. What was supposed to be a meeting addressing three bullet points, turns into a lengthy discussion and all semblance of order is lost.
Either way, valuable time is wasted and attendees often switch off and become bored after a while. To avoid these common pitfalls a better organization is needed.
They strangle productivity
Both team leaders and members surely know how fatal a poorly timed and delivered meeting can be for productivity. This, of course, is directly related to the sheer amount of time we often spend in these meetings.
The longer you’re held up in collective video calls, weekly updates, or 1:1 briefs, the less time you have to actually do your job. This then impacts your company’s profits and growth. The term “time is money” might be overused, but it certainly applies here.
Also, the content of the meetings themselves can stifle the creative process. If you feel like you’re attending the same meeting day after day, where nothing of particular importance is said, it definitely won’t do wonders for your motivation.
Productivity and time aren’t wasted solely during the meeting itself. Meeting organizers probably understand best about the time required to organize a meeting:
- Check with everyone whether they’re available on a specific date.
- Since this is rarely the case, you have to juggle everyone’s schedules to fit the meeting in.
- Send a meeting invite to each team member.
- See whether everyone is connected and can hear/is heard properly.
- Keep meeting minutes and distribute them accordingly.
Whether your team is meeting online or in-person doesn’t make too much difference. While you won’t waste time going from your desk to the meeting room, everything else around it takes the same amount of time.
They can kill team morale
The length of team updates sessions and team member meetings and their effect on productivity can also bring down team morale. Many meeting attendees come to hate weekly updates and other gatherings because these meetings make it much harder to manage work.
If you have a project to finish, a design to wrap up, or emails to send, meetings always seem to come at the worst possible moment. You then have to drop what you’re working on, hop on the group call or walk to the meeting room and waste time better spent working.
Especially if meetings become tedious or inefficient, team members will start dreading them. These meetings will create a sense of needless stress and prompt employees to switch off during team status updates, just willing them to end.
How to make team updates more effective?
If all of the situations we just described had you nodding in agreement, you need to re-evaluate how you manage team updates. Don’t lose heart – there are quick and easy ways to fix how weekly updates and team status reports are handled.
Bring in weekly updates
One of the first steps you can take is to introduce weekly updates. In case you don’t convene a team meeting every week, you might be saying, “but wait, that’s even more meetings; it’s only going to be worse!”
Actually, it won’t. Team status updates can be a brief affair. If everyone sticks to the plan and team members each have no more than a minute or two of talking, they can be highly efficient.
Furthermore, if you organize meetings at a slower pace, the agenda for each meeting will be much more significant. As time passes, all kinds of developments will take place, and you’ll have to cram all of that into a single meeting every few weeks.
On the other hand, if you organize a meeting every day or every few days, you simply waste precious hours. Weekly team status updates are frequent enough to cover everything without sacrificing productivity or time.
Introduce standup meetings
The meeting’s environment can have a considerable impact on their dynamic. When you have to wait for everyone to get seated at a large table, fetch their coffee, and bring out their notes, you just bleed productivity.
A great solution to this is to switch to standup meetings. First, they’re much easier to organize – you can just find a meeting lobby instead of looking for an office to house the whole team. Second, team status updates will be significantly shorter with everyone standing. No one likes to stand in place for a long time, while you can get pretty comfy in those huge chairs in the meeting room.
This advice can be used in conjunction with the previous. You can turn weekly team status check-ins into standing meetings and keep them even shorter. Alternatively, you can mix in daily standup meetings with your regular, seated ones. That way, daily standup meetings can be used for brief chats between team members, while non-standup ones are reserved for broader discussions.
By switching to standup meetings, you save on both time and logistics. It probably isn’t bad for your glutes either.
Not everything has to be a meeting
Now is the time to quote another often-used phrase – “this could’ve been an email”. This rings true in many cases, as not all team updates or discussions have to be shared through a meeting.
First of all, there’s the email mentioned above. Team members can be asked to email their progress or attendance report, while leaders can share essential developments.
Of course, email isn’t the only solution here. Pretty much every self-respecting company now uses online collaboration or instant messaging platforms. Platforms like Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Brosix give you a lot of different channels for communication.
With it, you can convey new information or status updates without interrupting any work processes. A team leader can broadcast a public message to his team through the broadcast tool notifying everyone of new developments in the current marketing campaign. That way, everyone will be notified while the message won’t get accidentally looked over or lost in the group chat.
On top of that, Brosix also supports practically all other channels of communication if you prefer sharing updates via audio or video.
Alternatively, everyone can just hop on the Brosix app, join the group chat and share their weekly update. Besides organizing a meeting chat, you can also use audio or video calls for team status updates. They’re perfect for sharing all news and essential info without the hassle of planning a full-on meeting.
Regularly hold status update meetings
Whichever form or frequency of team status updates you decide on, make sure you stick to it. It’s all too easy to skip one or two meetings because something came up. This then turns into a habit and after a while, no one takes these team events seriously and team attendance suffers.
Employees disregarding meetings and not treating them as necessary is a real risk. They might then skimp on their reports, not pay attention, or just sleep through them.
To avoid this, keep status updates and weekly meetings regular, and make them mandatory for team members. This isn’t just for authority’s sake – if everyone takes team updates seriously, they’ll be more productive and shorter as a result.
Make sure to showcase to team members why status updates are important and how they contribute to overall productivity. By holding regular and efficient team updates, you’ll cut down on other meetings and everyone will benefit.
Hold informal team events
Things like weekly lunches, collective breaks, and Friday drinks are great opportunities to feel your team’s pulse. Of course, these events shouldn’t be all about work, that defeats the point. However, since they usually happen during work time and between colleagues, they often segway into work talk.
During these gatherings, you can see what team members think and how they’re doing with their work. While unstructured, this feedback can be beneficial, as people won’t be constricted by the formality of traditional team status updates.
Informal events also have the desired side-effect of making team members more relaxed and at ease. Sprinkle in just a few social events at work, and you’ll see everyone feeling better and more productive. Just remember not to make them all about the job – leave room for fun too.
Provide feedback on status updates
Lastly, team leaders should remember to provide direct and helpful feedback on status updates provided by employees. If you’re in a leadership position, make sure to go over and actively listen to what everyone says. When the leadership doesn’t give significance to a team’s meeting, why would regular employees?
After receiving constructive feedback, people will know that you’ve actually paid attention. They will feel heard and appreciated and put in extra effort to do better.
Overall, giving feedback will increase the quality of status updates and other meetings and showcase their importance. Even if there’s nothing special to be said, a short confirmation or even just “thanks for the update” can go a long way. In a virtual setting, emojis alone can do the trick.
To summarize, here’s a team update checklist to consult when planning a reorganization:
- Keep them short
- Hold them weekly
- Make them regular and mandatory
- Mix them with informal events
- Introduce standup team update meetings
- Provide feedback when possible
- Don’t turn everything into a team meeting
There you have it. Hopefully, we’ve covered all the common pitfalls of organizing team updates and have learned how to avoid them.
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t see improvements right away. Everything takes time, especially when switching up a core company dynamic, such as team status updates.
Another thing to keep in mind is that perhaps some of the advice we’ve given here won’t suit every company or team. A data scientist department functions very differently from the social media marketing team. Still, a lot of these team update practices are general enough to be applied in different contexts.
And if you’re searching for a tool to help you with the team updates – give Brosix a try!