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Artfully Managing the Work of Your Creative Team -- But From a Distance

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Many creative workers these days are remote workers -- both freelancers and staffers -- who are delivering projects while traveling or living around the globe. Whether this is a marketing agency managing freelancers for client projects or Fortune 500 companies with employees working from home, these scenarios are becoming more common every day in our virtual world.

These arrangement also present a number of unique challenges, that, when managed correctly, can greatly benefit the organization, while also helping these employees grow professionally.

Moreover, factors that motivate creative teams to do great work can be applied to almost any remote work situation. Here are a few key principles that can help guide agencies and companies who are managing remote workers and their day-to-day tasks:

Related: Workers Without Borders: Managing the Remote Revolution

1. Offer community. One of the best ways to make remote workers feel closer to the managing agency or company is through projects that build in distinct collaborative steps, which include feedback and suggestions. It's also crucial to make sure feedback is a two-way street. Of course, providing community also means enabling remote workers to connect and collaborate with one another.

2. Master the timing of assigning projects. "Reasonably tight" deadlines seem to work best. The employer wants to allow the time required to complete the work, but reasonably tight because the right amount of urgency appears to have a catalytic effect. On many projects that my company, Tongal, manages of creative community-based design or video projects, it's been apparent that shorter cycles can increase team participation.

3. Rely on a division of labor. One of the best ways to create collaboration among employers and remote staffers is to break work down into discrete components. This has two great benefits for any company: First it allows people to focus on the kinds of tasks they do best, and second it necessitates (and therefore creates) trust, as workers become dependent on one another to create the finished product. This is also another way a remote community gets stronger.

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4. Feed the competitive spirit. Each of the discrete pieces of completed work affords managers the opportunity to recognize and reward those who've done outstanding work. Of course, that recognition can also come from within that community you're building -- but the big love has to come from headquarters.

5. Motivate workers with chance to work for high-visibility clients. Probably the biggest motivator for a remote community of workers is the nature of the work itself. The chance for these workers to submit ideas or do creative projects for world renowned brands is invaluable. Access to cool visible projects -- however that's defined in your organization -- is among the most important levers you have to create engagement and optimize discretionary effort. Also, spread these assets amongst your remote staff.

6. Keep an open door. Give remote worker "a pipeline to the strategy room." Build a process to get great ideas. Bring everybody in on the curation of concepts -- and of course, if you want to keep getting them act on the good stuff! It's helpful to have a forum for your remote community to pitch ideas for clients who see the value in getting a constant flow of input and innovations from their fans and customers.

7. Encourage everyone to recognize the fun. Nothing else is quite as involving as work that is actually fun. Just integrating that word into your everyday thinking is a big step forward.

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