How to keep your remote publishing teams motivated


Unprecedented times. Zoom fatigue. A longing to go back to the office. Sound familiar?

This year is the year that everything changed and BookMachine has pivoted to support this.

People are still buying books, and we are fortunate that many of us are still able to work – but without the buzz of the office, some people find their motivation can wane.

With that in mind, we thought it would be useful to share some ideas for keeping your team motivated.

Hold morning stand-ups

Stand-up meetings were created in the software world, and designed to keep meetings short. Nowadays they are used by many companies to share their daily commitments, and also to give everyone on the team the chance to discuss potential blockers from getting their work done. If you haven’t tried this before, you might find that it is just what you all need to keep aligned, and motivated and on-task. It’s hard for individuals to procrastinate when they know they have to report back to the team each morning. We’re big fans of this technique for collaboration, team-building and generating a faster pace to the working week.

Fostering a growth mindset

Our mindset has a huge impact both on our own ability to keep motivated and develop in our careers, but also on how people around us are able to develop. We recommend reading (or re-reading) Mindset, by Carol Dweck, and thinking about how you communicate with your team about their achievements. People with a growth mindset are most engaged when they are told what they can do to improve; whereas people with a fixed mindset react best to being given information about how well they have done. There are many techniques in the book for fostering a growth mindset, and these could be adapted to use at work.

Give extra responsibilities to share management tasks

As a response to being disconnected from our teams, a common response is to add in extra top-down processes, rules and procedures as ways of keeping an eye on what is happening. Boundaries and guidelines can be helpful, but for some can actually be demotivating, which can stop people being able to think so creatively. Instead of this, most people would happily step up to take on a more responsible role within the team. For example, for each meeting ask for a volunteer to manage the timekeeping, someone else to take notes for distribution shortly afterwards. By sharing the tasks, and allowing your team to shape how things are done, they are likely to be more engaged and motivated.

Try working alone, but together

This is a technique we use during the virtual Sprints we run for publishers. A Sprint is a time-constrained process which allows a team to collaborate, ahead of launching something new. So many people we work with complain that they have too many meetings and not enough time to think and do the actual work that needs doing. By working alone, but together, everyone is given the time to create their ideas individually, before sharing it with the team and generating more ideas before finalising the best course of action. We will be discussing this technique in more detail in our upcoming CAMPUS course How to inspire and lead your virtual publishing team.

Plan social activities online

Most of us miss our colleagues, and the incidental social happenings at work, as well as the organised events we might have previously attended. Making this happen virtually might not be top of your priority list, but it will be super important for many on your team. We have been organising social events for publishing professionals since 2010, and from the start of the pandemic these have been 100% online. At our monthly members’ parties we divide up into smaller groups to talk about popular topics – the events are informal and friendly, and a great way to meet people and stay connected to the industry. We have also been hired by large publishers to plan their virtual social programmes. The in-house series we have planned at Pearson Education will cover wellbeing, productivity tips and ways to spark more creative ideas. As well as hearing from an expert speaker, teams will go into small groups to get to know each other better and discuss how they will apply what they have heard. BookMachine members also have access to a virtual water cooler, allowing them to login and speak to other professionals throughout the day. There are gifs and conversation starters, and overall goal is to help people to connect both with their colleagues and others across the industry.

No one knows exactly what the future will bring, but variations on working-from-home will certainly be the new normal. So let’s make the most of it, and find the best ways to make it enjoyable for everyone. Do you have any other suggestions to add to the list? Please share your ideas below.

Laura Summers runs BookMachine, the fast-growing community and agency specialising in book publishing. Our mission is to provide every publishing professional in the UK knowledge, ideas and connections to help them to progress in their careers. BookMachine recently launched BookMachine Teams to help managers keeps their virtual teams motivated. Sign up your teams to give them access to monthly virtual parties, regular publishing events, access to a virtual water cooler, discounts on industry partners and 50% off all CAMPUS training courses. Join us here.

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