10 Benefits to Starting a Book Club at Work

Going to work seems to be much breezier when you truly enjoy your coworkers. Having an office setting that holds a sense of camaraderie and morale isn’t only good for the company, its employees benefit as well. As important as bonding (or at the very least – getting along with) your team it can be hard to define where the boundaries are. Many people like to keep their work and home life separate, and that makes sense for a multitude of reasons.

BlogEducation10 Benefits to Starting a Book Club at Work

Going to work seems to be much breezier when you truly enjoy your coworkers. Having an office setting that holds a sense of camaraderie and morale isn’t only good for the company, its employees benefit as well. As important as bonding (or at the very least – getting along with) your team it can be hard to define where the boundaries are. Many people like to keep their work and home life separate, and that makes sense for a multitude of reasons. So the question is: how do you connect? If after-work drinks are out of the question, try starting a team-building effort like a  book club. There are limitless benefits of a workplace book club, but we can start you off with our top ten. Use this article as evidence to bring to your boss – it’s a win-win at work.

1. Connect Remote Teams

Working from home definitely has its perks; you get to make your own schedule (for the most part) and determine just how your day will play out. Many employees made the shift from cubicle to couch during the pandemic, and a lot of companies have chosen to keep the model in place. While there are tons of great things about working remotely, it proves to be difficult in other ways.

Technical issues and missing an office environment are huge negatives of working from home, but one of the biggest obstacles is connecting with coworkers. Meeting and collaborating through a screen gets old and things can feel impersonal. Some companies have weekly brainstorming sessions, game and trivia breaks, or implement other team-building exercises. Bringing in a workplace book club is just one more way to bring everyone together. Create thought-provoking conversations and enjoy the break in monotony at the same time. Employees can take turns reading through a chat platform, making the online setting feel more inclusive.

Does your team work mostly remote? With JournalOwl, you can spin up virtual book clubs with a few clicks.

2. Get to Know Your Coworkers’ Values

It’s hard to get to know people on a personal level when every conversation you have has to do with work. There aren’t always opportunities that lend themselves to personal dialogue, and most of what we know about our coworkers come from daily interactions or the work they produce. Employees should be able to get to know one another on a deeper level in order to form deeper bonds. This benefits the company as a whole as it will establish mutual respect, spark creative collaboration, and insert a sense of humanity into our work.

A workplace book club can be conducted however its members see fit, but many clubs aim to establish a set of questions ahead of time. Having both multiple choice and open-ended questions leave room for everyone to participate comfortably. The book club gives teams the ability to have thoughtful conversations in a  brand new way. You may assume something about your coworker simply by the way they conduct themselves professionally; a non-work conversation discussion might prove you were wrong. When people have the chance to share their insights and opinions, you get a small peak into their brain. It’s likely you have a lot more in common with your coworkers than you previously thought. This new bond energizes our propensity to collaborate and reach agreements.

3. Open Up to New Perspectives

It’s always interesting to see how differently a group of people can perceive the same piece of media. Even if the message is seemingly clear to you, another party may have a completely opposite take. If your workplace book club decides to read something more creative or abstract, this can be especially interesting. Give each team member a chance to share what they thought about the selection. How did it make them feel? What did they gain from it? Do they agree or disagree? Why or why not? These types of conversations serve as sort of mock brainstorming sessions for teams. If you aren’t used to collaborating with certain employees in the office, this is a great way to see who might have some untapped potential.

Looking at things from a new point of view is essential in the workplace to begin with; we can become so stuck in our processes that we forget there are other ways to approach a problem. A workplace book club gives employees the chance to see something from a new angle – through their coworker’s eyes. Similar to hearing more about their values, hearing your coworker’s perspective might offer you inspiration in a way you didn’t see coming. Whether or not you agree with the perspective doesn’t matter – it’s seeing that there are several ways to look at the very same thing.

4. Share a Common Goal Outside of Work

Your team could decide to “assign” chapters to certain individuals, have “homework” that should be done before the group, or opt to have an open-format discussion. Whichever way you decide to run your workplace book club, you’ll be sure to reap some unexpected rewards. Having a common goal outside of your daily tasks or projects is refreshing and often necessary. People have the chance to show their strong suits in a way that doesn’t relate to their title or demonstrate skills that may have been hidden. Who knows what kinds of philosophers, debaters, poets, artists, and innovators are sitting in the chairs around you?

Working towards this common goal also allows employees from different departments to interact. If there isn’t anything else to talk about at the water cooler – at the very least you have your book to discuss. Sharing a common goal outside of your work is great for team building as well as individual connection. You could even ask another employee for their SparkNotes if you forgot to read. Whatever the case may be, a good book is a chance for good conversation.

5. Spark New, Relevant Ideas

Many companies choose to read books that are pertinent to their industry. This keeps work on the brain and stimulates discussions that can directly lend themselves to the business. That doesn’t mean the book has to be boring; there are many pieces of writing that are created to challenge companies to think abstractly. If the book isn’t industry related, a company can also opt to read something that has to do with morale or collaboration. The same benefits of a book club apply to these types of structures, and can even spark new ideas in conversation.

Reading about something inspirational in your industry always makes you remember why you do what you do. Though a lot of accomplishments can feel out of reach, as a team your book club might be able to figure out execution on a smaller scale. Having someone in the field to aspire to is another approach; many managers will use a prominent figure as a way to model conversation or goals. This type of book also holds a certain momentum in its pages – a “we can do that, too” sort of motivation. This tactic can be especially helpful if things have been stagnant at work or if the company needs a boost of ambition.

Are innovative ideas stagnate on your team? Does it feel like people lost their zest to speak up? Start a book club!

6. Implement New Innovations

After the new ideas are sparked, it's time to implement them. Reading about how another company or employee brought innovative practices into their workplace helps us see how simple it really is. Whatever the topic or motivation, having it laid out in text makes things more approachable. Strategizing these goals together is a byproduct of why workplace book clubs are so effective. People gather together and think of ways they can make their day to day more like what they just read. 

Companies are changing their practices and models every day, and oftentimes that comes with a lot of growing pains. Typically, new standards filter down from Human Resources through different management channels, and things undoubtedly get lost in translation. If your entire team read a book about a new practice, model, or innovation, you’re all already on the same page (quite literally). This is an efficient way to save time and avoid miscommunication when you’re trying to change things up around the office.  

7. Cycle Discussion Leads

Depending on their role, not every employee gets the chance to be a leader at work. It’s extremely empowering to have center stage during a meeting, and though it can be intimidating it is more than worth the experience. Leadership and presentation skills are huge when you’re trying to grow your career. If your daily functions don’t give you an opportunity to speak up and stand out, a workplace book club could be your platform. Some companies assign chapters to individual employees ahead of time – giving them the chance to “teach” or lead the discussion.

Having a model that cycles leads is another way to practice what you do at work every day. If you’re not the best at interpersonal communication, you have a chance to talk to your coworkers without pressure. If you’re struggling with client-facing calls, leading a chapter discussion can boost your confidence in public speaking. The best part is there is no right or wrong way to lead. Everyone has their own style of management and that’s the diversity that produces great work. Employees also have the chance to see new engagement and presentation styles that they might bring back into the office with them.

8. Break Away from Tech

Technology and the digitization of everything is inescapable these days. While tech definitely speeds up our processes and streamlines our work, it can be extremely dehumanizing. We don’t even get up from our desk to speak to a coworker – a quick email or chat will do the trick. Efficiency shouldn’t replace connection, and a workplace book club gives employees a chance to get away from their screens and converse with one another. Your team is a group of creative, capable human beings – not robots – so implementing a team-building strategy that is tech-free will bring that out best.

There’s something about stepping outside of the daily office environment that reinvigorates a team. This can be accomplished simply by having your team move away from their computers and into the conference room. Put a “no phone” rule in place and have your employees bring a notebook, pen, and their book – nothing else. This stripped back structure will feel new at first, but most people are glad for the break from their screens. You’ll feel yourself interacting with people you see every day in an entirely new way – how could that be anything but beneficial?

9. Think Outside the Box

Maybe your team doesn’t want to talk about work stuff – period. A lot of workplace book clubs read something fictional to get to know each other on a new level and discuss something other than what awaits them at their desks. This form can be a lot more engaging and interesting as you get to bond with coworkers about something you would never have the chance to. People who are on the shyer side can speak freely without feeling intimidated. Coworkers have the chance to discuss their favorite genres or make new picks based on what everyone on the team seems to like.

Reading something unrelated to your industry or field feels more like fun than work. While you’re reading, you might see some soft skills in your team members that you didn’t notice before (or that they didn’t know they had). Empathy, critical thinking, and creativity may begin to sprout out of coworkers you never expected. This form of understanding and appreciation in each other directly translates to the way you work. The more you know about a person, the better you can collaborate with them on a daily basis.

10. Stimulate Communication and Democracy

Managers often give their employees the reins when it comes to a workplace book club. This feels less forced and authoritative and is more likely to garner participation. Sending out a poll of what you’ll be reading is also extremely helpful if you want the exercise to be a success and something that employees actually want to be a part of. People don’t even like reading on their own, they definitely wouldn’t want to be forced to read something uninteresting at work. You might see team members working together to pitch a certain book or debating about why a pick isn’t the best one. This healthy communication is gentle way to introduce new forms of interaction to your team.

Once everyone gets on the same page, an unspoken sense of democracy arises. Everyone who is there wants to be there and chooses the book together. This informal way of reaching an agreement will lend itself to the way employees interact with one another when it comes to work. Your office could even have another exercise where teams have to argue and present why their choice is best, and then the entire team votes on it. Any opportunity there is to encourage collaboration in a fun way – take it. Starting a workplace book club will shake things up in a good way for everyone in the office.

Communication is the lifeblood of team work. Oral & written communication matter. Reading sharpens both skills. Encourage your team to have on-going book clubs on a variety of topics: current affairs, technology trends, or to study history to avoid the same mistakes as our ancestors!