Earlier this week, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced a new law giving workers time to read during office hours.
Called “unprecedented”, the law includes a number of other provisions. The government, for instance, will provide families with newborn babies with a “knowledge briefcase”, while schools will be required to develop an annual plan to encourage reading among students.
While it’s unclear how exactly the law will work, His Highness did say that it “will encourage the private sector to invest in the establishment of libraries and cultural centres”.
What is clear however is that the law offers companies a unique opportunity to engage with their staff in new ways. Increased mental stimulation, the reduction of stress, and enhanced knowledge, are just some of the clear benefits reading has on the brain. In other words, it makes a lot of sense from an employee wellness perspective.
With that in mind, we’ve outlined some ways companies can encourage their employees to read.
Have a company library
One of the best ways to encourage your employees to read is to have books readily available for your employees. Even if you don’t have enough space for the kind of collection that would make a serious bookie jealous, chances are you at least have room for a bookcase, or a couple of shelves.
You don’t have to spend a ton of money building up your library either. Take a trip to your nearest second-hand book store and you’ll be able to pick up a few bargains. And if your employees are up for it, you can even encourage them to donate books to the library.
Just make sure that there’s an actual system in place for monitoring which books have been taken out and which ones have been returned.
If having actual books doesn’t fit with your office aesthetic, you can always go the digital route.
Overdrive, for instance allows companies to have a hosted virtual library accessible across a plethora of devices.
Another option is to have a few Kindles that anyone can borrow at any time and buy a book on the company’s account. One company that does this is Officevibe, where it’s proved a great way for employees to get to know each other.
“When someone shares a book with the team and writes a whole paragraph about why they’re sharing it and why they enjoyed it, you learn a lot about who they are,” Officevibe employee Jacob Shriar writes in an official blog.
Start a book club
This one requires a little finesse. You can’t just set up a book club and expect everyone to join. That just won’t fly.
As The Balance points out, your first step is to gauge whether there’s any actual interest in starting a book club.
If there is interest, come up with a time — lunch probably works best — when those interested in participating can discuss the book for the week and ask for suggestions to put on the reading list.
Once things get started, it’s worth noting that you should make sure that everyone gets a chance to discuss the book (or chapters) read that week.
Also, don’t be stingy; use company money to buy the books.
Set aside reading time
Okay, this is the whole point of the new law, but you might as well get ahead of the game and start scheduling time for your employees to put their work down and pick up a book.
Perhaps consider adding on an extra half hour to lunch breaks or an hour every second day. Be flexible with how you implement the specified time period, to ensure the most benefit for both employees and business.
Give people space to read
One of the biggest office trends in recent years has been the rise of the quiet pod. They’re usually used by people looking to get some work done or make a Skype call.
Thing is, they’re not going to be in use all the time, so why not allow one or two people to book them out for reading when they’re not in use? Alternatively, set aside a reading area or quiet room.
Don’t forget the audio
If you manage to spark a newfound interest in reading among your employees, chances are they’re going crave more of the kinds of stories they’re reading as well as the dedicated time-out from their daily tasks. But there are only so many minutes in the day you can dedicate to reading.
Luckily there is a solution in the shape of audio books. Give employees vouchers to audio book providers such as Audible as a reward, or as part of a literary celebration.
Audio books are also great for those employees working remotely, or travelling long distances in traffic each day.
Just don’t be surprised if there’s a sudden absence of drum ‘n bass coming out of everyone’s earphones.
Don’t be judgmental
This is our last, and probably most important tip. If you’re going to be inspired by the new law, embrace it and remember that the idea is to encourage people to read. Whether their choice of book is a cheap thriller or a treatise on economic inequality, all that matters is that they’re reading.