Publishing amidst a pandemic

Publishing amidst pandemic

We kicked off this year with the Publisherspeak Journals Think Tank, a forum of journal publishing professionals that meets regularly to discuss challenges and brainstorm ideas. We had our very first meeting in January, where we discussed several priority topics.

Publishing, much like most industries, has been deeply impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. How has the pandemic and the shift to remote work affected research, publishing productivity, and team morale? What does the future of publishing look like?

Research during the pandemic

The panel described the two conflicting effects of the pandemic on research:

Many researchers were able to work on data analysis and writing during the pandemic as they had more time to write and analyze their work. This led to a healthy flow of manuscript submissions. Many were also able to work on grant proposals to set themselves up for future research.

Conversely, those involved in disciplines that require field research were restricted due to global lockdowns, and as a result, manuscript submissions in these fields have tapered. Ph.D. candidates who had planned to commence field research in 2020 never got the chance to do so, which has negatively affected their morale and productivity. Collaborative research has also been deeply impacted by such restrictions.

With the world cautiously reopening, the panel noted a shift back towards research.

The WFH effect – Team morale and productivity

Publishers who worked with remote teams before the pandemic were able to transition to remote work without much difficulty. Teams that adopted remote work for the first time, however, witnessed resistance from some members during the initial stages of the change. Over time, not only was this hesitation removed, most employees actively embraced the remote work model.

The panel agreed that remote work paved the way for versatile hiring decisions, enabling publishers to hire from a wider pool of candidates and offer flexible working options. Adopting remote work has led to cost savings in some instances leading to the development of smaller, smarter workspaces. 

On the flip side, workforce morale has been affected by the WFH model. The following tips were shared and discussed by the panelists as ways to address this challenge:

  • Establish clear KPIs and metrics for getting the work done.
  • Set up channels for frequent communication.
  • Build trust among teams.
  • Make room for virtual social catch-up meetings.
  • Be mindful of following up with employees who are struggling with staying productive as well as those who are overworking themselves. 

The panel discussed the importance of staying on top of team goals and tasks to create a productive remote work model.

The way forward

A change in the publishing model was needed in order to react to the vast volume of content that came in and to prioritize COVID research. The panelists concurred that this change has made publishing more productive.

The world has embraced virtual meetings and remote work. On the one hand, virtual meetings have proven useful for editorial board meetings that require members from different journals to come together. On the other hand, organizing a virtual meeting for geographically dispersed participants can be complex due to time zone variances. Despite its shortcomings, virtual meetings have become the new normal. This begs the question: Will we ever return to fully in-person settings? 

The panel agreed that remote work has been very beneficial. Working virtually, teams have been able to put out extraordinary amounts of output during the pandemic. 

Regarding the challenges of remote work, the panelists noted that working from home does tend to magnify certain behaviors. It can be difficult to interpret and address morale and attitude issues remotely. The panel agreed that although a return to fully in-person setups did not seem conceivable, some level of face-to-face contact and interaction is necessary.

The panel remarked that as they hold cautious hope for the world to reopen in 2022, there are many learnings from the pandemic that they hope to carry forward in their return to normalcy. Considering the success of remote work and how virtual events have enabled a wider audience to participate, the future of work and events would most likely involve a hybrid environment with in-person and online formats. 

In summary, there was a clear consensus that the pandemic has transformed the way publishing works irrevocably and, in many ways, for the better.

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About the Publisherspeak Think Tank

The publishing landscape is evolving rapidly with time, giving rise to exciting developments and new challenges. The Publisherspeak Think Tank brings together experts from diverse areas of the publishing ecosystem, to share their experiences and insights to adapt to challenges and adopt industry trends.