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How to Connect and Manage Remote Teams the SMART way

Managing remote teams has been an UNPRECEDENTED challenge for most leaders in the past year. Until now, we still can’t put a date to when it is safe for some of us to go back to the office.

While it is always preferable to establish clear remote-work policies and training in advance, in times of crisis or other rapidly changing circumstances, this level of preparation may not be feasible. 

So, why is managing remote teams a key hurdle for companies and leaders? How can we do connect and manage the wider workforce in a SMART way? 

Let’s start with some common challenges that managers often face when working with remote teams. 

Common Hurdles to Managing Remote Teams 

It is important for managers to understand what can make remote work particularly demanding. Otherwise, high-performing employees may experience declines in job performance and engagement when they begin working remotely. 

Some of the ingrained issues in remote work are: 

  • Social isolation
  • Enhanced issues with already existing silos 
  • Losing sight of who is available for project-based or ad-hoc tasks 
  • Hiring the right resources
  • Lacking the right communication tools 


When these issues are left unattended, they can snowball into poor business performance as a result of disengaged employees. So how do we curb that, in the SMART way?

Overcoming remote team hurdles the SMART way. 

When we talk about SMART goals – the following words come to mind…. 

  • Specific 
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant 
  • Timely 


These factors are not just abbreviations to a constructive way to set objectives and a solid guide to tracking the goals to ensure that we are on track. That is, they ensure that team members are productive both in and out of the office through intentional communication. 

As an effective tool, the SMART goals provide clarity, focus, and motivation you need to achieve your goals. It can also improve your ability to reach them by encouraging you to define your objectives and set a completion date. 

The whole process is seamless when there is proper goal-setting involved. Setting crystal clear goals involving specific parameters, set times for check-ins and evaluations can help managers lead remote teams efficiently. 


On the other hand, SMART also carries another connotation – smart technologies that can be leveraged to help us reach our goals and objectives. With a 17-month old baby in hand and everything else that goes in-between, it might be extremely difficult to give our attention to the constituents in the organisation. 

That’s why turning to digital tools is a necessity. Below are some tips that Xrosswork has gathered from industry experts for you to best connect and manage remote teams. 

Best Practice 1: Engage regularly to remedy social isolation in remote teams. 

First things first, it is important to be engaging remote teams on a daily basis through some kind of communication. Use multiple channels to communicate, then plan a regularly scheduled face-to-face or video conferencing meeting. 

This constant interaction and engagement will help remote workers feel included in an important aspect of the organisation. As well, it gives leaders the opportunity to learn more about their staff beyond their positions, and more about their personal goals and strengths. 

Tina Dietz, from StartSomethnig Creative Business Solutions, suggests that taking a personal interest in learning the team’s life goals can help them connect their interests to the goals of the company. Boosting employee’s engagement and performance much higher. 

Communication is crucial when it comes to employee engagement. Especially when you are the leader, and when managing remote teams. You must be communicative, and sometimes over-communicative in a remote working environment.

So leaders, be available for your workforce even when they are miles away. For more Employee Engagement Strategies for Leaders, click here

Best Practice 2: Set clear expectations to align how you manage remote teams, work and interact with each other. 

Setting expectations and boundaries are pivotal in maintaining an engaging and functional environment for work. This is no different to a remote work environment.

This is similar to when operations are based face-to-face, if not more important when it comes to working remotely. 

Now, everyone has a (slightly) different idea of what doing something “quickly” or “well” means. Whether showing examples of what you expect to be done, calendar sharing, or whatever it may be.

Make sure you have clear expectations from those you work online. The more prepared theta are, the better they can serve. Expectations should be set around: 

  • Work hours – especially for those who work across timezones 
  • Availability
  • Communication system
  • Timely meetings
  • Key projects and deadlines
  • Respond to email (i.e. no more than 24 hours) 

These expectations will form the baseline of how you want the team to be utilising communication tools, as well as how they communicate. Don’t simply assume the team understands what is expected of them. 

Best Practice 3: Digitalise workflows and allow remote employees to put their hand up. Connect internal talents to Opportunities aligned with their skills and interests. 

While it is easier when simply converting what you normally do in-person to remote-mode, it may not be sustainable in the long run. 


Finding who’s available/still in the company and who has the required hidden skills are just equally challenging.

Being out of sight, leaders may struggle to find the right talent to join the team or to complete ad-hoc deliverables that no one from the existing team has the skills to. Especially in-between all the layoffs, it is only natural to forget what your 40-direct reports are skilled at or interested in. 

That’s why it is important to implement smart, (and preferably solutions powered by artificial intelligence) to facilitate the human-based process, in a manner that emulates a personable approach. 

Particularly, artificial intelligence can be employed to identify skills-gap in completing a deliverable, and replicate what you would normally do in the office: 

Tap the shoulder of the person in the cubicle next to you and ask whether s/he is skilled, interested and/or available to help you out. 


Just like the video, Xrosswork’s powerful algorithm allows you to learn more about the valuable employees in your firm and discover the hidden talent. So you can better engage them by connecting them to where they are needed. So you can be managing remote teams effortlessly. 


Autonomising opportunities for employees can allow them to explore new and enrich skills that they already have. That way, organisations can foster cultures of development and collaboration, which can reap benefits in higher motivation and productivity levels as well as performance. It will also lead to a stronger employer brand and market reputation in the long term.


Now, this has a flow-on effect in building a strong company culture on development and collaboration. Thereby, bolstering organisational performance, productivity, and motivation. Better yet, it cements a positive employer brand and reputation in the long term. 

Learn more about the benefits of such technologies in the workplace here


Best Practice 4: Take Advantage of Technology to Build a Strong and Remote Community. 

Building a community is important in developing an engaged remote workforce. (In fact, we think that this trend will continue even after the pandemic.) 

Why? Because socialising and being around others is core to how humans evolved. We are social creatures used to living and working in communities or tribes, so why should remote working stop us? 


Strong systems are fundamental in facilitating collaboration among employees. Such tools must also be capable to overcome geographical and departmental barriers in the organisation, as well as tailored to business and operational needs of the organisation.

That’s why leaders should adopt technology and digital tools to create dedicated spaces for celebrating special days, company milestones as well as community recognition. UpwardAction sees that being intentional at creating a community contributes to developing a strong corporate culture that inspires connection. As a result, bolstering productivity. 


So what are you waiting for? 

Connecting and managing remote teams can be done efficiently when you have innovative leaders who care about the people s/he manages, as well as when you have the right digital tools,  to support the human interactions between remote teams. 

Want to know how Xrosswork has helped countless clients to connect and collaborate remotely? Ask for a case study now