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Future of Work Wednesdays: Summertime and the Reading is Easy

future of work, hybrid work, workplace
Britta Schellenberg
Published on

With its longer days and more casual pace, summer is the perfect time for catching up on your reading. Lots of folks do “beach reading,” meaning detective novels, romance novels, and/or the latest bestselling fiction. But when I’m at the beach, I like to read non-fiction books about the future of work.

This FoWW blog recommends books you can read this summer (or what’s left of it) on the key trends driving the future of work:

1. The Nowhere Office: Reinventing Work and the Workplace of the Future, by Julia Hobsbawm

The author believes that the traditional 9-to-5 office was probably doomed even before the pandemic began. The COVID-induced global shutdown changed everything we previously knew about work, including where and when it needed to happen. Hobsbawm offers a strategic and practical guide for navigating today’s pivotal moment and provides lessons for how employees and employers can adapt to hybrid work.

2. The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work, by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer

Must-read for anyone seeking to understand employee experience and human motivation. As Director of Research at Harvard Business School, Ms. Amabile has spent the last three decades exploring how organizations of all sizes can support employee experience and workplace creativity. The book finds that the biggest motivating factor for employees is not money or promotions, but small, day-to-day successes which indicate that they are “making progress” in meaningful work. 

As Amabile once explained during an interview, “the progress principle was not obvious to managers. They actually rated ‘making progress’ [in meaningful work] dead last . . . and we know from our research with employees that ‘making progress’ was number one by a huge margin.” To understand how to motivate your team and create positive employee experiences, read this brilliant book about employee motivation.

3. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, by Eric Ries

A book that’s been spectacularly influential over the last decade, changing the way organizations of all sizes think about how they deploy data to inform decision-making. Don’t let the book’s title fool you – It’s not just a startup book, but actually a book about how to learn from data and build great experiments (which is what hybrid work is). 

Following Ries’s approach to learning as an iterative cycle fueled by data will help make your organization more efficient in leveraging data and setting up feedback loops. Ries calls for rapid experimentation, as well as effective methods to shorten cycles of learning, measure actual progress, and learn what your target customers (who might also be your employees) want. Ries’s book offers foundational practices that will allow your organization to have greater agility and the ability to learn and implement these lessons quickly. 

4. Redesigning Work: How to Transform Your Organization and Make Hybrid Work for Everyone, by Lynda Gratton

This important, timely book asks the most important question of the moment: how do we make the most of the greatest global shift in the world of work and radically redesign the way we work now?

Professor Gratton is a global thought leader on the future of work. Drawing on thirty years of research into the technological, demographic, cultural, and societal trends that are shaping work, and building on what’s been learned through the pandemic, Gratton presents a clear four-step framework for redesigning work that will help organizations understand what drives employee performance, reimagine new ways to work, model and test these approaches, and ensure your workplace redesign has lasting benefits.

Gratton helpfully offers real-world case studies of organizations grappling with workplace challenges. These include the global bank HSBC, which built a multidisciplinary team to understand its employee experience; the Japanese technology company Fujitsu, which reimagined three kinds of “perfect” offices; and the Australian telecommunications company Telstra, which established new roles to coordinate work across the organization. 

5. Work: A History of How we Spend our Time, by James Suzman

The author is an anthropologist who explores the history of work as something that defines who we are as human beings. Today, and long before, work determines our status, and dictates how, where, and with whom we spend most of our time. Work also helps define our self-worth and shapes our values. Suzman explains how humans got to this point.

Leveraging insights from anthropology, archaeology, evolutionary biology, zoology, physics, and economics, Suzman shows that while we have evolved to find joy, meaning, and purpose in work, for most of human history we worked far less and thought very differently about work than we do today. With work flexibility and increased autonomy becoming more prevalent, and supportive technologies enabling both, Suzman shows that we’re in the middle of a transformative moment in the history of work.

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AI, Automation and the Future of Workplaces