With technology allowing more flexibility in the workplace, more Australian professionals are working offsite each year.
Dynamic Business revealed: “According to a study by the International Workplace Group (IWG) almost 50 per cent of Australian employees work remotely for at least half of the week while more than two-thirds work at least one a day a week outside the office.”
The definition of remote worker, however, isn’t confined to local employees. In this industry, you might also be working with a range of freelancers or creatives in different countries and time zones. While there can be challenges to managing creative projects with a fragmented work force, there are many ways to become a cohesive and hyper-productive team.
Recommended reading: Best Practice Session 4: How to Manage Ad Agency Freelance Resources
Here are our best practices for successfully managing remote creative teams:
1. Communication and trust are essential.
There’s nothing more unsettling than not knowing how project tasks are tracking. It’s important then to practise open and transparent communication with your remote team, just as you would with inhouse staff. If time zones allow, hold regular stand up meetings via video (more personable than phone conferencing) to check in. While you need to maintain a structure to your meetings – discussing results, planned work for the day and any current challenges – sometimes it’s worth throwing some off-topic banter into the mix to build rapport. After all, communication is not just a tool for accomplishing project goals, it’s also about engendering trust – a critical factor when managing offsite workers. (*See point 5 for workers in tricky time zones.)
2. Focus on project objectives instead of micro-managing your resources.
On the topic of trust, micro-management isn’t a style that typically inspires it. Not to mention it’s counter-productive for you as a traffic or project manager. So while it might be tempting to keep checking in with your remote workers throughout the day, your time would be better spent making sure that everyone is clear on project objectives. This means sending out comprehensive briefs at the start of each project and ensuring that each resource understands the tasks they need to complete with clear start and completion dates.
3. Remote workers need to know where they fit in the approval workflow.
Your offsite resources are an important part of the approval workflow. To ensure they understand their role in this (sometimes) complicated matrix, provide them with access to a documented approval workflow chart. Then if they need to send information or artwork onto stakeholders, they know exactly who it is (rather than it going to someone else and wasting their time). If you don’t currently have an official approval process or it needs a little tweaking, it might be time to do a review and document it in a visual format that’s easy to understand.
Recommended reading: Refining our marketing approval workflow
4. Use a time tracking tool to measure time spent on tasks.
It’s difficult to estimate future budgets if you don’t understand how long each task takes to complete. If you use a time tracking tool, make sure all remote workers are using the same one so that you can consolidate the data at the end of each cycle. This information will also help you to better plan for future work as well as track performance.
5. Implement MRM software to streamline the process of managing your remote creative team.
Marketing Resource Management (MRM) software is a cloud-based solution that allows remote access to a range of tools. For this reason, it’s a really effective platform from which to manage agency projects if you’re working with a range of offsite resources. No matter where you’re located, you can always access project documents and files as long as you have an internet connection. Here are some of its features:
- Resource planner – resources can see what tasks are allocated on a day-to-day basis. This is especially handy for those in opposite time zones
- Briefing tools – so everyone’s on the same page at the start of every project
- Time tracking tools – for measuring the time spent on tasks
- Approval workflow management – briefing and online proofing tools, a customised approval workflow, and reminders and alerts
- Approval dashboard – see how tasks and approvals are tracking without even speaking to your resources
- Digital asset management – designers and marketers have direct access to current brand assets
- Collaboration tools – really importantfor communication for those remote workers who are sleeping while we’re awake (or vise versa). Everything is documented and saved in the system so that all users can add/view feedback and have full visibility over work in progress/new allocated tasks/up to date timelines.
Recommended reading: Managing marketing resources with MRM software