Reading, thought of as a solo activity, conjures up images of lying in bed at night, relaxing on a beach, or sitting on a park bench.

But with the rise in popularity of book clubs, we’re learning that reading can actually be a great way to connect with others. A workplace book club creates a fun and enriching space for discussion, learning, listening, and communing with co-workers over a common topic.

The benefits

A workplace book club encourages healthy communication, collaboration, empathy, immersion into different points of view, and a better understanding of everyone’s place in the company.

Co-workers who tend to be shy about speaking during work-related discussions can build their confidence with a book club, as it provides a more relaxed atmosphere for sharing. As they adjust to feeling more comfortable around their coworkers, they may begin to feel more comfortable opening up in more professional environments.

A stronger, collaborative, and engaged workforce is good for a company’s bottom line, too. The books will give employees ideas for new and creative ways of doing their jobs. Plus, reading the same books gives everyone shared points of reference, valuable when trying to communicate new ideas for application into the workplace.

How to start a book club

1. Designate a point person: This person is in charge of making sure the monthly meetings happen. They rally participants, secure and prepare the location, order the books, and arrange for snacks. The point person should choose the first book, which will set the tone for subsequent books.

2. Spread the word: The point person sends the invitation to everyone, letting them know the date, time, and location of at least the first few months of meetings as well as the title of the first book. Calendar invites can help the point person determine how many copies of a book to order. Be sure to ask everyone to accept or decline the invite as the preferred way to RSVP.

Note: Monthly invitations should always be extended to all employees, regardless of participation the previous month, to avoid exclusivity.

3. Determine how future books will be chosen: If you have interested co-workers across a variety of disciplines, taking turns choosing a book might be motivating. Books can be chosen based on members’ different professional realms, like marketing, human resources, administration, and leadership. And if you have many participants, books can be voted on. There are even apps devoted to the process.

4. Assign hosts for each month: Hosting should be a rotating job, giving everyone a chance to host. To keep things simple, whoever is host for a particular month could also choose the book.

5. Host the first meeting: Part of the first meeting will likely be devoted to setting some ground rules and answering questions, so you should be prepared for that. As discussion gets underway, remember that the host’s role is to make sure everyone’s voice is heard and that the group isn’t going off on too many tangents. Although you want to leave room for spontaneous conversation, some level of structure is critical in order to cover everything on the agenda.

Get creative

Once your book club has been going strong for a few months, consider spicing it up a bit with some creativity. Hosts can incorporate trivia games, themed snacks, and party favors. Sometimes, authors will have suggestions on their websites for relevant activities. In fact, an author may even be willing to visit your meeting!

The bottom line

A company culture in which everyone is oriented toward growing and developing professionally and personally cultivates high morale, better productivity, and lower turnover. A book club is a great way to support this kind of positive culture.

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