How-to book shows to thrive at this difficult time
Working from Home: Making the New Normal Work for You
John Wiley & Sons, 2020, $22
By Karen Mangia
Book Review by Erin H. Brown
As organizations around the world charge ahead through the COVID-19 pandemic with a mostly remote workforce, experts are offering guidance on how best to stay competitive and productive at this time.
One such expert is Karen Mangia, Vice President of Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce and author of the recently released “Working From Home: Making the New Normal Work for You.” The book aims to help readers settle into a comfortable and confident remote-working mindset, where your work space and your attitude become platforms not only for getting work done but also for moving your career forward.
The book promises answers to questions about how to stand out to the leadership team at your organization from a distance and how to stay energetic with colleagues, even if feeling burned out. Does it deliver?
I say yes, though with the caveat that in today’s unprecedented environment, success hinges on not just how you approach this new working world but also what tools are made available to you. With regard to the latter, a chaotic company or lack of technology resources may set an employee back despite that person’s best efforts. But the author does her best to address the majority of challenges that most workers face.
The book’s foreword comes from a surprising source: professional race car driver James Hinchcliffe. Hinchcliffe – who, like the author, hails from Canada – sets the scene with details of a devastating crash he suffered while practicing on the Indianapolis 500 track in 2015. His story is one of recovery (the accident impact forced a metal shaft into Hinchcliffe’s thigh and struck a femoral artery, making his heart stop and requiring two blood transfusions before he even entered surgery), and of charging through life’s challenges. For him, the challenge to overcome was a near-fatal accident. For today’s workers, it’s a pandemic that has put a wrench in the works of everyday life.
Throughout the book, author Mangia steers readers through all the curves on the remote-work track. Her focus is on the idea of adaptation to new rules of work, and her recommendations range from setting up the most productive workspace possible at home to wielding virtual interactions as new tools, to helping the organization around you adapt to a new virtual culture. Mangia also includes tips on how workers can advance their careers at a time when simply standing still seems to sap the energy of the best of us.
At first glance at the Table of Contents, the pattern of the book seems a bit meandering and hard to follow. Title headings range from broad phrases like “Possibilities” and “Rituals, Routines, and Boundaries” to deep dives into “Spectacular Online Meetings” and “Team Building.” The book then veers off into “How to Corral the Kids,” before jumping back in chapters on “Redefining Success” and “Accessing Innovation.”
I would have preferred a more direct route between categories — for instance moving from home office tips to how to overcome the daily challenges of working with teams, and then expanding to broader topics of changing company culture and impacting innovation. However Mangia’s conversational style helps with the dips into a variety of areas. She also sits on her own employer’s Work From Home Taskforce, so she likely sees a wide variety of both specific and broad issues facing the workers of such a large firm (Salesforce reportedly has 29,000 workers globally) and tries to address this long list of challenges.
The strongest chapters are those that deal with developing time-management routines at home and the very real issues of virtual meeting fatigue and staying connected to a team that you don’t see everyday – and may not see for months to come.
With endorsements from the likes of Arianna Huffington and the World Economic Forum’s Saadia Zahidi, Working From Home has the backing of some of today’s most important voices on work and culture. With a growing number of books under her belt, Mangia is becoming an emerging voice on the topic of remote work. For now, workers are lucky to have her insights gained from experience on the front lines of building the virtual work roadmap of today – and possibly tomorrow. A valuable read overall.