Why Books@Work?

"One team member said that this was the most genuine form of community building and culture creation that they have experienced."

Dr. Susan Sweeney

President, GGB Bearing Technology

"A consistent theme that has emerged is that colleagues view each other differently after engaging in Books@Work. They now stop and talk to each other whereas they may have simply nodded a polite 'hello' and walked by in the past. There is a deeper understanding (and appreciation) of each other after exchanging personal insights and sharing stories. One team member said that this was the most genuine form of community building and culture creation that they have experienced."

We're more than a book club.

In the face of rapid innovation and disruption, the contemporary workplace demands regular active learning. No role or function is exempt; every employee – from management to the front line – must shed familiar paradigms to explore diverse ideas and perspectives.

Our professor led-literature discussions trigger the meaningful interactions that do just that: break down barriers of difference and build up cultures of trust, respect, community and learning. Organizations see us as:

But many employers see value in Books@Work just because it creates a respectful workplace experience that encourages stronger communication, collaboration and innovation.

Communication

Collaboration

Innovation

What makes Books@Work unique?

It’s multi-level engagement.

Our programs comfortably bridge hierarchy, function and educational experience.

It runs in the background.

Participants can meet over lunch or any time during the day without disrupting workflows.

It creates energy.

Books@Work does not drain energy or require performance. It excites and energizes its participants.

It’s not prescriptive.

There are no right answers, and no two programs are alike: Books@Work meets participants where they are and engages them on issues they deem relevant.

It’s a gradual build.

Rather than a single intensive workshop or other one-time experience, Books@Work incorporates itself into the regular flow of everyday work.

It’s cost-effective and low-risk.

Measured in dollars or in time, an investment in Books@Work yields high returns.

It plays well with other initiatives.

Books@Work augments and partners with work you are already doing in your organization, whether in wellness, inclusion, leadership development, team building or culture change.

It fosters a common language.

Participants read together and find phrases and themes that resonate with them, co-creating a unique organizational dialect.

It deepens relationships.

Once participants learn something new about each other, they cannot unlearn it. These relationships grow and last.

Diversity & Inclusion

Without a robust mechanism for authentic inclusion, companies cannot leverage the full value of a diverse workforce.

True inclusion is a business imperative – critical but elusive.

  • Companies that prioritize fairness and inclusion outperform their peers by 80%. [Forbes]
  • Although 71% of companies strive for an inclusive culture, only 12% meet that goal. [Forbes]

When employees do not feel welcome to share ideas, make mistakes or challenge colleagues – or simply, when employees feel excluded or isolated – diverse perspectives are silenced.  

In a Books@Work programs, the text is a springboard for respectful discussions on otherwise sensitive topics. Colleagues revisit paradigms, find common ground and jointly develop a culture of mutual respect.

A group at an urban medical center read Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns. One participant, who grew up in a rural environment, shared that he had never heard of Jim Crow. His colleague was shocked. “You know, she looked at me and said, ‘Did you grow up under a rock?’ I said, ‘Yeah. I did.’ So we got into a discussion. . . I’ve never been a prejudiced person, but it’s allowed me an even deeper understanding of the people I speak with now.”

Why Books@Work?

Participants say that Books@Work improves their:

Confidence

“It’s hard to speak up in a meeting talking about business if you have a different idea or you disagree with an idea. . . It’s hard to stand up and say something different than the group might think. In Books@Work, you can just naturally do that.”

Perspective-Taking

“The communal experience is so good because everyone is coming from a different lens. Then when you put all those things together, you see this prism of light and experiences. A couple of teammates brought up things that just blew my mind. . . I never even thought to look at it that way.”

Inclusion & Affirmation

“I’m in a mixed relationship now, and I’m being constantly reminded that my experience is not what [my partner’s] experience was. [Books@Work] was a safe place, where people could express those feelings without fear of retribution.”

Team Effectiveness

Books@Work is “a loosening and stretching exercise” that hones effective team dynamics and capabilities.

It’s common sense: Successful organizations must have strong teams. But it’s not a one-time fix. Team effectiveness is a muscle to be conditioned and exercised regularly. Effective teams emerge from a constant process of collective discovery and learning.

We work with teams of engineers, restaurant workers, healthcare providers, machinists and more, using literature to encourage empathy, active listening, critical thinking and creativity. Our programs provide a safe space for groups to practice team dynamics in a low-stakes environment.

A corporate leader at a manufacturer has enthusiastically embraced Books@Work as a team building tool. “It gives us a platform to discuss ideas that are not threatening in the work environment. I think there’s a real, key benefit to that. There’s no right answer, and there’s no connection to your work performance. It’s strictly an exercise to better your communication skills amongst each other, just in terms of the group and the team dynamic.”

Why Books@Work?

Participants say that Books@Work improves their:

Trust & Respect

“They got to know where I was coming from and what type of person I was, not based on work, but based on morals and values and ethics. So, it gives you a different opinion of a person when you get to see the behind the scenes, not just the work face.”

Communication

“Now that we’ve used the platform to make mental models more explicit, we’re able to have greater speed of execution because we can get right at the issue that may be sensitive, may be the elephant in the room, that may be undiscussable.”

Empathy

“Now, when we’re working on business topics, I see broader perspective-taking and broader perspective-seeking, and it’s been a welcome surprise.”

Wellness

Social connection is one of the strongest predictors of workplace well-being. But the statistics are sobering:

  1. Only 30% of employees have a best friend at work and only 5% of employees strongly agree that their organization helps them build stronger personal relationships. [National Business Group on Health]
  2. 71% of employees are not fully engaged. [Dale Carnegie]
  3. 80% of workers feel stress on the job. [NBGH]

Books@Work addresses wellness at its roots. By providing a safe environment for colleagues to share and discuss literature, Books@Work encourages social, mental and emotional wellness, important steps toward a healthier and more inclusive work environment.

Two diverse groups of participants met weekly as part of a wellness initiative to encourage community on a university campus. One participant commented that “feeling connected to the larger campus and others contributes to a sense of belonging.” Another viewed her Books@Work sessions “as a weekly respite from the stress and rigors of my job. It was a lot like social therapy.”

Why Books@Work?

Participants say that Books@Work improves their:

Social Connectedness

“I like [that my company] acknowledged and prioritized being part of a community and getting together for a common purpose as an important aspect of how you feel about yourself and your experience at work.”

Workplace Happiness

“Getting into enjoying reading books and enjoying the community, I feel well. I just really feel like it added a lot to my happiness.”

Mental & Emotional Health

“Why would you want to do this at work? Just the same reason we want to exercise. Having emotionally and mentally stimulated employees is a really good thing for the workplace.”

Culture Change

The most productive workplace cultures are founded in high-quality connections among colleagues.

Books@Works invites employees from every level of the organization, engaging their perspectives, demonstrating their value and fostering deeper interpersonal connections across hierarchies and functions. This barrier-breaking work develops a safe, inclusive work environment and a strong sense of community.

In short, Books@Work encourages employees to build – together – the kind of workplace culture they want to inhabit day-to-day.

 

A Books@Work program at an independent school included faculty, administrators, kitchen workers and maintenance staff. One participant noted how the program encouraged community among staff who don’t normally work together. “It helped me feel part of the school. . . It was quite therapeutic to talk about some of the issues that we all face and say, ‘That happened to me too.’”

Why Books@Work?

Participants say that Books@Work improves their:

Morale

“I think anytime you can add beauty to the work environment, it’s a good thing for the morale of the people. . . Your spirits just feel better. It feels like I can tackle what I’m doing that day or that week a little better because I had that hour.”

Psychological Safety

“I have never ever seen anything like that at work. . . It brought our work group closer together, opened up lines of communication that weren’t there prior and broke down barriers.”  

Culture-Building

“I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know my colleagues on a deeper personal level. When we take the time to exchange ideas and feelings outside of the work environment we build a deeper trust inside of the work environment.”

Just Because

Books@Work is more than a diversity & inclusion, team effectiveness, wellness or culture change intervention. In fact, many employers offer Books@Work just because the program serves as a unique opportunity to:

We work with employees from the shop floor to the management suite, within natural teams, or across hierarchies and functions.

One engineer explained why Books@Work allowed her to use a different part of her “nit-picky” an detailed-oriented engineering brain. “Using your brain in a different way allows you to be creative and think about things in different ways. Your brain is a muscle [and we need to] exercise it. And if you can have an outlet to be creative in a different way. . . It just gets you thinking in that mindset.”

Why Books@Work?

Want to learn more about the principles behind our work? Visit our blog, The Notebook, for posts written by Books@Work team members, professors, participants & more.