In a business world where collaborative spaces frequently replace private offices, a productivity expert pleads for a balance between the two.
Though the author begins by stating that the purpose of her guide is to help harried workers regain control over their lives and jobs, she clearly aims her advice at the head office. In chapters such as “The ‘Human’ Part of Human Capital,” Thomas (Personal Productivity Secrets, 2012) addresses senior leadership directly. Using research that mines sources in businesses and academia, she makes a convincing case that managers in today’s economy must nurture employees physically and psychologically to coax the best job performance from them. She suggests, for instance, that workers have the opportunity to nap when tired, work outside the office when they want to, and experience nature—either by going outside or playing wildlife recordings at their desks. Lest CEOs think she wants to turn offices into playgrounds, Thomas repeatedly calls for moderation in their design. Some employees require quiet, private spaces to get things done, while others prefer to be surrounded by activity. The ideal office, she writes, combines several different settings along with the flexibility for employees to work remotely. With bold claims (“Managers who have the outdated bias that employees must be supervised in order to be productive should have a skill update”), she identifies the two biggest executive challenges today: customizing management style to suit individual workers’ needs and getting staff members the training they require to avoid distractions in the office. Thomas calls the latter “attention management” and explains that it doesn’t come naturally. Rather, both workers and managers must receive instruction on how to do it. With its succinct chapters and useful margin notes, the book is an ideal accompaniment for in-office training sessions. The end of each chapter offers helpful nuggets of information, such as “Takeaways You Can Tweet,” a fun and unusual aspect of this thorough work that acknowledges the importance of social media.
A must-read for managers who are trying to navigate today’s workplace.