With more and more books about the changing workplace, what are the latest trends to emerge out of some of the best ones?
Books about the changing world of work abound, but what does it take to get one published and what is the latest thinking on the workplace?
An event at the Workplace Trends Research Summit 2022 this week saw five authors talking about their latest works.
Jennifer Bryan is a change consultant and author of the 2021 book Leading People in Change: A Practical Guide. It aims to cut through the numerous theories of change management – often with over-complicated methodologies and purely technology-focused approaches – that have responded to the fast pace of change in business and to focus on people. The book is directed at the ordinary line manager just as much as the director of a large company and sets out practical steps to lead people through change successfully, based on 24 case studies and Bryan’s holistic ABChange Model which grew out of her experiences as an executive coach working in central government.
Simone Fenton-Jarvis’ book The Human-Centric Workplace: Enabling people, communities and our planet to thrive also focuses on people and what it means to be human at work – the need to have a purpose, to connect and to feel. Fenton-Jarvis argues that organisational cultures still encourage people to hide their identities at work despite the fact that this culture fuels so many societal issues, from wellbeing, the economy, inequality and the climate. The book argues that we must do better by making organisations human-centric and that everyone can make a contribution to driving change.
Rob Harris’ London’s Global Office Economy: From Clerical Factory to Digital Hub is a comprehensive study of the office from the very beginnings of the workplace to its post-pandemic future. It takes the reader on a journey through five ages of the office, encompassing sixteenth-century coffee houses and markets, eighteenth-century clerical factories, the corporate offices emerging in the nineteenth, to the digital and network offices of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Harris says that, although a third of the workforce uses an office, the buildings themselves – their history, design, construction, management and occupation – have received only piecemeal explanation, mainly in specialist texts. His book examines everything from paper clips and typewriters, to design and construction, to workstyles and urban planning to explain the evolution of the ‘office economy’.
Using London as a backdrop, Rob Harris brings together environment practitioners, architects, surveyors, facilities managers and many more to provide a comprehensive perspective on the office. He says these fields are normally treated in isolation, but that by looking at them in a more holistic way wider trends and influences can be traced.
Meanwhile, Nigel Oseland’s book Beyond the Workplace Zoo: Humanising the Office focuses more on psychology – he is a psychologist by training – and begins by outlining the common design mistakes with the modern open plan office and the industry focus on cost that has made office workers feel like they are in a high-density ‘workplace zoo’. Oseland references historical studies in psychophysics to describe how to design environmental conditions (acoustics, lighting, temperature, indoor air quality) that enhance performance by supporting people’s basic physiological needs. He also investigates how personality, context, attitude and other personal factors affect our interpretation and response to physical stimuli depending on personality, context, attitude and other personal factors. The book also looks at how to plan, design and manage offices to accommodate our innate human needs now and in the future, including more focus on agile working and diversity.
Neil Usher’s book The Elemental Workplace, focuses on the 12 basics of what a good workplace should look like, from the need for light, comfort and connectivity to space, choice, influence and control.
At the Workplace Trends event the authors were asked what had driven them to write their books. Fenton-Jarvis said it was her experience of the workplace and the difference between her values and the reality on the ground. Bryan said her book was a labour of love that had taken over 10 years of pregnancies and miscarriages. Her ABChange Model is based on her master’s dissertation. Harris has worked in different parts of office design and is interested in connecting all of them and at looking at the workplace in a more rounded way.
All had found some aspect of the writing and publishing process hard. For Bryan it was finding a publisher. For Fenton-Jarvis it was writing the book while working full time during the pandemic. For others it was about structuring the book and being prepared for a marathon rather than a sprint. The constant focus required made it challenging. Fenton-Jarvis said it was like an eight-month therapy session. And they mainly writing during the Covid pandemic where everything about work was changing all the time. It hasn’t put them off as all of them are working on another book. Their advice to other budding authors on workplace trends was simple: use your network, ask for help, get a mentor, have a clear idea of what you want to say and remember why you are doing it.