When we think of continued learning and self-improvement, reading naturally comes to mind. That’s why we’re so excited to be celebrating International Literacy Day, a global celebration planned by UNESCO. This celebration is a strong reminder of how digital technology and the internet enables each of us to do more reading, writing, and learning.

Source: UNESCO

We have more ways than ever to get access to books and reading materials. But how much reading are we doing? One survey reports that “[r]eading has declined among every group of adult Americans,” and for the first time in American history, “less than half of the U.S. adult American population is reading literature.”

This is too bad since reading has plenty of benefits that many of us might not know. We know we should probably turn off Netflix and pick up a book, but how come? Here are a few very good reasons:

So how can we as a company step up to encourage reading in our employees? We have a few ideas and we’d love to share them with you.

How We’re Encouraging Reading at Buffer, and How You Can Do The Same At Your Company

As a part of our value of focusing on self-improvement at Buffer, we encourage our team to do lots of reading. Here are a few of the ways we’re doing that:

Make it easy for employees to read by buying books for them

When I started working at Buffer the amount that I read went up a huge amount and I’ve heard from other Buffer teammates that they saw the same. The biggest reason? I had unlimited free books and a Kindle shipped to me before I even started my first day.

I’ve always loved reading, but sometimes I held off if I didn’t have a chance to go to a bookstore or if I felt that $50 a month on books was a bit much at times. (Especially living in San Francisco.)

What Buffer did was eliminate the cost of books completely not only for employees but also their significant others. Now, when anyone at Buffer wants a book they just submit the Kindle or Audible link through a form and it’s gifted to them.

You might think that it could add up quite a bit on the business side of things but we’ve found it to be very scalable. In 2017 the total cost of buying Kindle books and audio books has been roughly $1,700 per month and covers 72 employees plus their significant others. So far this year we’ve gifted 111 audiobooks, and 773 Kindle books.

Create a space for book discussion like a Slack channel or book club

We have a few different places that employees can gather to talk about books. Since we’re fully remote, the main one is Slack.

Every time an employee grabs a book through the form we use to collect the books we’ll gift, a ping gets sent to a Slack channel set up we have called #culture-books. In there, everyone can see what everyone else is reading.

I’ve personally found this to be incredibly inspiring for finding my next read. People frequently jump into discussion about books they’re reading, ask about books someone else has grabbed, and overall chat about books and reading.

We had a book club running several months at Buffer last year which did wonders in encouraging reading discussion if not just suggesting interesting new books for the team to read.

Lead by example, have the leadership team read and share more

I’ve included a list of the top books we’ve read at Buffer so far this year below. Seeing the list I immediately realized that several of the books at the top were suggested by the leadership team, primarily in Discourse or in the book Slack channel.

There’s clearly power in having leaders share why a book made an impact on them and how it might benefit others on the team. Several books have even impacted Buffer’s course as a company and when recommended by our CEO Joel the team is eager to learn more and pick up the books as well. (Here’s the list of books that have impacted Buffer if you’re curious!)

How other companies are making reading a priority

We’re not the only ones that are keen to have employees read more often. I found three other tech companies, though I’m sure there are plenty more, who have great perks that focus on reading.

Twilio

Twilio teammates are encouraged to read in a similar fashion to people at Buffer. They are also given a free Kindle, coupled with a $30/month book allowance.

Invision

Invision goes right to the source and buys books for their employees through Amazon at no cost to the employees. It’s not clear in the article but they might have the option for ‘real’ books as well and not only digital books, which is something we chat about at Buffer a lot. (Sadly because we’re remote the shipping costs might add up a bit too much.)

Amazon

As you might imagine, employees at Amazon get discounts on all things Amazon, including Kindles and buying books.

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova

The Top 13 Books That The Buffer Team Have Read in 2017

If you’re looking to get started with a few books, here are some suggestions straight from the Buffer team. These are our most read books so far in 2017.

  1. Winning with Data: Transform Your Culture, Empower Your People, and Shape the Future
  2. The Decision Maker: Unlock the Potential of Everyone in Your Organization, One Decision at a Time
  3. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
  4. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers
  5. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
  6. Swing Time
  7. The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag
  8. Managing Corporate Lifecycles – Volume 1: How Organizations Grow, Age & Die
  9. Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice
  10. Site Reliability Engineering: How Google Runs Production Systems
  11. Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big
  12. The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know
  13. When Breath Becomes Air

For the full list of what we’re reading, you can check out this Pinterest board with recent Buffer book reads. We also made a list of most read books in 2015 from the team if you’re keen to grab more ideas.

Over to You

  • Do you know of other companies that encourage reading? How do they do it?
  • Does your company encourage more reading? We’d love to hear about how!
  • What are you reading right now? Are you interested in anything on the Buffer list?

Cover photo by Scott Webb

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Written by Hailley Griffis

Future of Work at Buffer. Obsessed with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, podcasts, and drinking tea.

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