June 2020 saw IPG’s first ‘virtual’ Spring Conference take place with hundreds of visitors gathered in the digital space to attend a range of talks and ‘meet’ the exhibitors. This year, Newgen UK occupied a digital booth as one of IPG’s exhibitors, and we were able to catch up with some familiar faces as well as make some new connections.

In the current climate, it is impossible to discuss almost anything without reference to the global pandemic we are experiencing. With this in mind, a great deal of the talks were tailored towards how to work within this environment practically, as well as providing constructive reactions and opinions on how Covid-19 is impacting our industry. Attending this conference reminded me of the importance of connectivity and community within the publishing industry, and how much support there is for small, independent publishers. These types of conferences allow a space for publishers and vendors to connect and remind each other we are all in the same position, especially now. At Newgen we are especially proud to be working with so many brilliant independent publishers.

The conference had a vast array of speakers, two of which I found incredibly moving and important topics to think about during this pandemic: How to Stay Productive by Mark Leruste, and Mental Health in the Workplace by Melissa Doman.

Mark Leruste, advocate for building purpose-first cultures at mission-driven organisations, gave an extremely relevant and important talk on productivity at work. 2020 is the year we have all been forced to shift the ways in which we work, meaning it is now more important than ever to remain productive, and to be productive purposefully. Mark concentrated on the point that working right now is tough, meaning we must acknowledge that it is both OK not to be OK, and that it is OK to be OK – there is no right or wrong way to be! Everybody works in different ways, some people may be at their most productive at this time, while others are struggling to focus on their work. For those who are struggling to be productive and remain productive, there are ways we can control this and adjust out operating systems, better known as our brains! Understand that there will inevitably be things we cannot control, so we must instead focus on what we can control: food; sleep; movement; hydration; being out in the sun, and nature. Once you’ve conquered this, it will inevitably feed into the productivity of your work life, which will be bettered by remaining optimistic – believing things will get better while in the face of adversity. A final thought from Mark which has particularly stuck with me is that “self-care is not a luxury, it is fuel for your productivity”. Take the time to practice self-care as it comes in many forms, invest in this and you will be set.

Melissa Doman touched upon similar themes in her talk regarding mental health in the workplace. I think we can all agree that, now more than ever, we must recognise the importance of checking up on one another and doing what we can to support each other during this time. Work takes up a large portion of our lives, so it makes sense to not only stay connected in our social lives, but also in our work lives. Digital platforms such as Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams have become available and easy for us to use to stay connected with colleagues while working from home, and I must say it has been a saviour in the recent months. Knowing you have a workplace and colleagues who care and take the time to listen is the push we all need to sit back and really take care of ourselves. You and your physical and mental health always come first, and when that is prioritised, then the rest follows naturally.

I was personally extremely moved by the talks given at the IPG Conference, and immensely impressed by the set-up of the first ‘virtual’ conference, and possible the beginning of many more to come. The IPG team should be incredibly proud to have delivered such a range of talks and provided a great space for publishers to connect and build upon their existing connections. I look forward to seeing how much changes in a year, and what 2021 will bring.