What are weekly check-ins?
A weekly check-in is a team meeting with a weekly meeting cadence meant to help managers and team leaders get updates, ensure alignment, and gain feedback on their overall performance.
These check-ins help provide clarity with each employee’s work experience for the week, bringing any roadblocks to light and helping to ensure that projects are moving along.
While these typically don’t change much from week to week, many teams still subscribe to the notion that they need to hold synchronous check-ins to hear from each team member individually.
These weekly meetings become part of the furniture, and they stick around because people fear that, by not meeting regularly, something is bound to go wrong, or they'll miss out on important updates.
We disagree. It’s just as possible to have effective check-ins with asynchronous communication.
And because of that, we want to talk more about the impact that too many synchronous meetings can have on productivity and how you can gather updates without having to add yet another meeting to everyone’s calendar.
How weekly check-ins impact your team’s productivity
The average professional is attending 21.5 hours of meetings per week. Unless you’ve adopted the four-day work week, that’s half of your team’s weekly hours—spent only in meetings.
Due to factors like context switching and meeting overload, your team’s productivity is being greatly impacted in the worst way. And to top it off, your team could be facing a newer phenomenon called meeting recovery syndrome, or the feeling of fatigue or exhaustion after a pointless meeting.
Your employees aren’t feeling productive or rejuvenated after your weekly check-ins. And with remote or distributed teams, one survey found that 67% of employees are getting distracted during their virtual meetings.
With the cost of ineffective meetings close to $400 billion in the US (and $541 billion globally), your company can’t afford to continue holding synchronous meetings that can easily be held asynchronously.
However, there are a few instances that you may want to consider holding synchronous check-ins. We’ll talk more about that after we look at why these check-ins are so appealing in the first place.
Benefits that come from (asynchronous) weekly check-ins
While we've just highlighted the negative productivity, morale, and even financial implications of regular synchronous meetings, weekly check-ins can still be beneficial—as long as they're done correctly.
We recently surveyed 1,001 professionals in our State of Work study (Coming Soon). The results revealed a ton of insight into the benefits of async communication.
Here's how to achieve even better results using asynchronous communication for your weekly check-ins.
Let’s get back into that MIT survey. MIT surveyed 76 companies that had recently implemented meeting-free days to measure the impact of fewer meetings.
These companies instituted anywhere from one to five meeting-free days each week (you read that right—7% of companies got rid of meetings entirely), and the impact was incredible.
Autonomy, communication, and productivity saw major increases throughout the teams, while micromanagement and stress dropped, proving that scheduling too many meetings is both unnecessary and detrimental to your organization.
They measured several variables to see how they increased or decreased due to implemented meeting-free days.
Productivity increased by as much as 74% when there were a number of days that could be completely dedicated to deep work—work that needs focus with no interruptions.
By moving your weekly check-ins to an async format, you’re contributing to this added productivity. Employees are able to submit their own updates or queries in their own time without losing an hour (or more) to a sync meeting. This lets them get on with their tasks for the day.
Motivate your team
Much of your team may be self-motivated (an especially important trait for remote teams), but holding regular check-ins about performance and task management can help to further motivate employees to work more effectively, so they have something to report back on each week.
In addition, having access to regular performance reviews and feedback on their work is also a great motivation tool. Swapping async screen shares and voice notes allows for quick feedback and iteration across your team.
Build better communication
Having weekly check-ins creates frequent communication between you and your team.
And when you utilize different types of async comms, like project management software, Yac for async voice messaging, Google Drive, or email, you’re able to figure out the best way to communicate to get your point across and reduce miscommunication.
Plus, regular discussions ensure your team knows how to get the most out of your team communication apps.
With Yac, you can quickly start an async meeting by recording a voice message to make sure everyone is on the same page. You don’t want someone on your team to misconstrue the new marketing strategy and work on a new campaign, only to find out later they’ve been doing it entirely wrong.
Instead, create a check-ins discussion group where everyone can record their updates and make sure they’re following the right process every step of the way.
Having that weekly communication ensures that everyone is on the same page, with clear directions. Even if someone misunderstood temporarily, frequent check-ins ensure they’ll quickly be able to readjust.
Plus, a voice recording provides the additional benefit of not having to play “guess the emotional intent”, as many people do with emails.
Similarly, weekly check-ins are great for problem-solving. Being able to address this head-on during your weekly check-in and identify what caused the holdup and how to avoid this in the future is helpful for everyone on your team.
Let’s take a look at an example of this in action. A junior app developer complains about their app’s slow download speed recently. A more seasoned colleague can reply with a screen share of ways to address this issue, and the junior developer can let them know if things are going any smoother.
A lot of people will jump into Slack to sort this out, but with a complicated process, it’s much more straightforward to send a screen share walk-through. A text-based thread can quickly become a back-and-forth, and before you know it you’re having a synchronous meeting when it could have been an async screen share.
Collaboration and knowledge-sharing can be a valuable part of your weekly check-ins, especially if you have employees with a range of experience on the team.
What will provide the quickest return for your company’s bottom line? For example, your content team is having a meeting to discuss the next month’s topics. You can help them prioritize which topics to publish first based on which will have the biggest impact.
For example, perhaps your start-up will be featured in an upcoming online event. As a founder, you can use the weekly check-in to set priorities for the entire organization and make sure all departments are focused on the same goal.
Marketing needs to have fresh collateral at hand and a social media schedule prepared, your website should be fully optimized and able to handle larger volumes of traffic (e.g., Coinbase planning their Super Bowl commercial), etc.
Because instances like this don’t pop up regularly, the check-in is the perfect time to let your team know so they can adjust their task load to properly prioritize the incoming project.
Keep your team accountable
If teams know there is an expectation to provide an update through an async channel, it keeps them accountable.
This doesn't necessarily mean they need to pretend to have an update, but it ensures they can let their team know that everything is going smoothly (without having the awkward silence commonly found in sync meetings).
Identify employees that need a hand
And finally, holding weekly check-ins keeps you in the know. Some employees may be struggling with their tasks, and identifying those team members allows you to better help them acclimate to their role.
Set objectives for each week and note difficult areas between each meeting. Every week will benefit from some sort of progression, and soon they should be able to keep up with less and less hand-holding.
What should I be talking about in a weekly check-in?
Over time, weekly meetings often lose their purpose, taking on a rehashed meeting agenda week after week with no real conclusion. Instead of a valuable check-in that lets you see where your team is at, it becomes a useless recurring meeting that everyone joins out of pure habit.
There are better ways to go about this to ensure that everyone gets value out of your weekly check-in every time.
The first key is to default to async—if you’re looking for a simple update, there’s no need to have a meeting on the calendar. The second key is to ask the right questions.
A few places to start are:
- What are you working on this week?
- What challenges (if any) are you facing this week?
- What can be improved on this week compared to the previous week?
- What are you looking forward to working on?
- How did you feel about this week?
- Is there anyone you’d like to give kudos to?
- What is your goal for the week?
These will help gauge where each team member is at with their weekly tasks.
However, it’s also important to check in on your team’s mental wellbeing. Doodle’s 2021 State of Meetings Report discovered that virtual meetings have risen by 1,230%; however, there’s evidence that a good bit of that increase is due to mental health check-ins.
Putting an emphasis on mental health within your organization helps to improve company culture and ensure your whole team feels heard.
Consider adding questions like these to your weekly check-ins:
- How are you doing?
- Do you have enough support right now?
- How can we support you better on this task?
You can even use a tool like Kona to conduct regular mental health check-ins to see where you can best support your employees.
Each morning, your employees will be able to answer a quick question about how they’re feeling, letting you and the rest of the team know if they could use some extra help that day.
Choose your questions carefully. You don’t want colleagues to feel pressured to share personal information. Open the space for communication and let them know where to go if they need a more private outlet.
Make the most of your weekly check-ins in order to increase employee satisfaction, reduce stress, and ramp up productivity.
How to conduct efficient weekly check-ins
As we’ve covered, having meeting-free days can be liberating for your team, helping them improve productivity, engagement, satisfaction, autonomy, and more. This is why defaulting to asynchronous meetings when conducting weekly check-ins should be part of your team’s workflow.
By following along with a set meeting template—and adjusting it based on what your team has been working on throughout the week—you’ll easily be able to gather asynchronous updates without being intrusive.
Set a structure for your asynchronous weekly check-ins
How will you conduct your weekly check-ins? Finding a structure that works for your team is your first step.
There are a number of ways you can structure these meetings. First—and our top recommendation—you can create a Yac discussion group for voice messages and screen recordings.
Here, your team can hop in at their best time on a chosen day (make it the same day each week to set expectations), record a voice message, and share.
This is a great process because Yac creates the personal ambiance of a meeting but remains completely asynchronous.
You can easily pair Yac with other tools for the most seamless weekly check-in experience:
- Create a meeting agenda with Google Docs, where you can list questions for each person to respond to via voice message. Send a voice message requesting updates and drop the link for your agenda into the Yac.
- Manage tasks with a project management tool like Asana or Trello. Check progress on these tools before creating your agenda, so you know what stage of each task to check in on. This also helps ask more focused questions and avoid broad “where are you at with X?” questions because you can clearly see the project stage on the platform.
- Use Kona to check in on mental health without scheduling one-to-ones. This will help you discover who might need more support over the next week, and flag colleagues who might need a 1-on-1 voice message or a synchronous meeting for more pressing matters.
- Want a more creative way to host weekly check-ins? Have your team hop onto a whiteboarding tool like Miro. You can set up a range of async games alongside questions about projects (e.g., image riddles to solve next to a list of questions about the week’s tasks).
As you shift into async-first, you may want to test out a few different check-in ideas to find what fits best for your team.
Create an agenda (including your goal for these meetings)
Every meeting, whether asynchronous or synchronous, needs an agenda. This is what keeps you on track and makes sure you have a productive discussion.
As mentioned, you can easily create your agenda in Google Docs. Notion and Dropbox are also great tools for housing meeting agendas and other important documents.
Here’s an example of what your meeting agenda might look like in Notion:
Outline each of your main talking points or questions so your team can respond via Yac. Make sure to adjust the agenda each week to make the most of your check-ins.
Hold asynchronous discussions
The next step is to hold your asynchronous discussion. Make sure you set this up on the same day each week so your team can factor it into their workday.
This way, there’s not an added meeting on their calendar, but they can still respond to your agenda questions when it fits into their schedule.
Put together an action plan for the next week
Listen to each team member’s Yac to see how the week has progressed. Then, put together an action plan to help move things along.
If there are any roadblocks, let your team know how you plan to help or address them. If anyone needs a one-on-one to help them improve some processes, message them separately to discuss the next steps or record an async screen-share they can return to whenever they need a refresher.
All of this can easily be done asynchronously. There are some occasions when synchronous check-ins are better.
When to consider synchronous weekly check-ins
Not all check-ins are created equal. Some will have way more talking points versus others. If there are no roadblocks, no major updates, etc., then those should be async, while others that require urgent discussions can be held synchronously.
Launching a project likely has a lot of moving parts, and your team may have a lot of questions.
For example, let’s say your social media team is creating a brand new campaign for the next month that will involve several new ads, creative assets, copy, and branding.
If this is the first major campaign your team has run in a while, and they’re a little rusty, you may need to hold a synchronous check-in. Hold the meeting before you get started synchronously to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Debriefs, sprint reviews and retrospectives after a long-term project are another check-in you may want to hold synchronously.
Once your team is used to certain types of projects, you can easily revert right back to async check-ins. Holding a synchronous debrief in the early days of new project types can help identify unexpected challenges so the next one runs more efficiently.
Providing sensitive feedback
Weekly check-ins provide opportunities to support employees in a new area or on a new task. If your team member has requested some additional help in an assignment they’re struggling with, holding synchronous one-on-ones can be a great way to walk them through it.
Onboarding new team members
When onboarding new employees, you don’t want to leave them to their own devices too early in their new role. When you’re bringing a new team member on board, it’s a good idea to hold some of your check-ins synchronously, so they get the hang of your processes.
Use a combination of sync and async communication to acclimate new hires and set expectations. Do this alongside your 30-60-90 day plan.
Yac screen shares make this easy to handle remotely. Create video messages of your processes that new hires can refer back to as they get used to their tasks and responsibilities. Reuse these tutorials by adding a shareable link to each new onboarding document.
It’s important to check in with your team. Weekly check-ins help build rapport, solve problems, set priorities, and identify struggling colleagues.
With asynchronous weekly check-ins, you can gather valuable updates from your team effectively and without yet another meeting on their calendar each week.
To further help your journey to async, check out Yac. You can hold an async meeting, record voice messages, share screens, and help your team communicate at their best times.