I understand that you want to have "sticky view mode"? This is supported by CMS UI, however for some reasons (consistency is one of, IIRC) it was disabled in Catalog UI. I will check with Commerce team about that
Yes, I believe a sticky view mode would work for this - leaving the interface open to perform additional work would be best for our configuring new product!
Is there any way we can gain more control over our publish flow for variants? Example: Every time we edit and publish a variant the page view opens, and we have to return to the properties view and go back to the variants tab - we'd prefer this flow to not automatically move away from the variants view so publishing would be easier. Is there a way we can hook into the variant publishing process to prevent the automatic move to the page view?