A calm environment is the best place to learn new perspectives and spark innovation — just ask Bill Gates!
Every year, the Microsoft co-founder goes into seclusion for a “think week.” During his week away from the daily grind, Gates reads up on big-picture analyses related to his current work and the future of technology.
A “think week” is different from a working vacation. Instead of trying to keep up with the daily stream of emails and decisions, the smartphone is off and you’re taking a bird’s-eye view of your industry and professional goals.
“If you can’t take a week off, even a day or a few hours away from the office can provide just enough time and perspective to provide insights,” writes Tanner Christensen in the 99U post, “Why You Need a ‘Think Week’ Like Bill Gates.”
If you’re looking for inspirational reading for your own “think week” or for a few quiet hours on the beach while on vacation, consider one of these thought-provoking books on employee engagement and building employee happiness!
Your Employee Happiness Reading List
1. “Workplace Wellness that Works: 10 Steps to Infuse Well-Being and Vitality into Any Organization,” by Laura Putnam (Wiley, 2015)
Written by Motion Infusion CEO Laura Putnam, “Workplace Wellness that Works” examines the connection between wellness and organizational culture in the workplace. It provides a step-by-step framework for making a difference in employee health and happiness, as well as concrete, actionable advice for “tackling the massive obstacle of behavioral change.”
Chip Conley, AirBnB head of global hospitality and strategy, praises Putnam’s “insights coupled with compelling stories and tangible action items” and says her book, “will help any organization adopt a more creative approach toward transforming culture and influencing well-being at work.”
2. “Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know,” by Jill Geisler (Hachette, 2014)
Jill Geisler, head of the Poynter Institute’s leadership and management faculty and voice of the popular podcast What Great Bosses Know, draws on new research and her own three decades of management experience for this how-to guide on being a great boss employees love. Along the way, she includes quizzes and self-assessment tools for managers to self-diagnose strengths and weaknesses.
“Jill has a talent for making great leadership seem slap-your-forehead simple,” NPR Vice President Keith Woods writes in a jacket review. The book’s practical, rock-solid advice, “sits atop mountainous research and real-life experience that has been honed and scrutinized by some of the most exacting leaders around.”
3. “Sleeping with Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change the Way You Work,” by Leslie A. Perlow (HBR Press, 2012)
Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow discusses the surprising link between disconnecting and productivity — and how to make it work in your workplace. The benefits of controlling “nonstop workweeks” include increased employee work satisfaction and better work-life balance.
In a Canadian Business book review, Sarah Barmak writes that Perlow’s “key insight is crucial” — that smartphone addiction is an organizational challenge and needs to be addressed as such.
4. “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose,” by Tony Hsieh (Grand Central-Business Plus, 2010)
Publisher’s Weekly calls this autobiography by Zappos.com founder Tony Hsieh an “uplifting tale of entrepreneurial success, personal growth and redemption.”
What sets apart Hsieh’s story is his inspirational approach to building success. By focusing on corporate culture — including employee happiness and development — he built a company that now grosses more than $1 billion in merchandise sales per year.
“‘Delivering Happiness’ is a real take-to-the-bank book about developing a truly customer-centric, as well as an employee-centric, organization, all delivered with insight and humor,” Jack Covert writes in a review for Inc.
5. “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t,” by Jim Collins (HarperCollins, 2001)
An oldie but a goldie! Nearly 15 years have passed since “Good to Great” was published, but it’s still a must-read for any HR professional. Author Jim Collins reveals in this deeply researched book how companies can transform from the inside out.
The impact of Collins’ research and teachings continues to this day. In a recent Q&A with gThankYou!, management expert and author Kevin Sheridan describes himself as a “huge believer” in Jim Collins’ work!
6. “Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think,” by Paul Dolan (Penguin Random House/Plume, 2015)
Drill down into the latest science on happiness in this book by renowned behavior expert Paul Dolan, published last year and now out in paperback. The Telegraph describes it “breezy, upbeat and pragmatic.”
Dolan has turned his groundbreaking research into a personal, practical plan for deciding, designing and doing the things that bring true happiness. According to a Scientific American review, “Dolan touches on a powerful idea: happiness need not be pursued, [but] simply rediscovered. In other words, sources of pleasure and purpose are all around us, if only one knows where to look.”
7. “The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement and Creativity at Work,” by Teresa Amabile & Steven Kramer (HBR Press, 2011)
First excerpted in a Harvard Business Review article, this book by business professor Teresa Amabile and developmental psychologist Steven Kramer explains how to activate the forces that allow progress in employee engagement. The authors base their approach on a rigorous analysis of hundreds of diaries kept by employees at seven companies (which they quote at length to illustrate their point).
Bestselling author and management expert Daniel Pink calls it “one of the best business books I’ve read in many years.”
8. “It Takes More than Casual Fridays and Free Coffee: Building a Business Culture That Works for Everyone,” by Diane K. Adams (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)
Here’s one to preorder! Due in August, “It Takes More” is a “front-row seat to helping you build and perpetuate a successful culture in any business, no matter its size or the competition.”
Author Diane Adams is Chief People Officer at international tech company Qlik and has spent more than 25 years leading HR departments at Fortune 500 companies.
9. “Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work: A Guide for Leaders and Organizations,” by Tracey Bower (Bibliomotion, 2014)
Author Tracey Brower, a work-environment sociologist, investigates an issue that weighs on many of us today: work-life balance. Based on her research and interviews, she lays out a plan for how leaders can use work-life supports to help employees and build a more engaged and fulfilled workforce.
The employee-engagement platform Limeade chose “Bring Work to Life” as its Summer Reading Club selection this year! Enhance your reading experience by following along here for discussion questions, opportunities to ask Brower questions, and more.
For more great professional tips and insights into building a vibrant culture of engagement and recognition, be sure to download our free e-book, “The Top 20 Employee Engagement Blogs You Should be Reading.”
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