Warren Buffett is the world's most successful investor. He spends 80 percent of his day reading. One imagines those two facts are not unrelated.

But picture what would happen if your boss walked by your desk one day and found you with your feet propped up and a book open in front of you (alternately, bosses take a minute to consider how you'd feel if you witnessed an employee engrossed in a good book at her desk). The answer depends on your particular role and company, of course, but chances are pretty good that your supervisor wouldn't make a note to praise your commitment to lifelong learning at your next review.

Which is totally weird, marketing guru and author Seth Godin points out on his pithy blog recently. Context clearly matters - no one thinks a retail employee or a trauma surgeon should spend their shifts catching up a the adventures of Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen - but for most knowledge workers time with books are hours well spent.

Replace that status meeting with an all-office reading hour.

"Most organizations think nothing of having twenty valuable employees spend an hour in a meeting that's only tangentially related to their productive output," Godin observes (correctly) in the post. "But if you're sitting at your desk reading a book that changes your perspective, your productivity or your contribution, it somehow feels like slacking off..."

Clearly, many of us need to flip our unexamined expectations of what productivity looks like. How could your office get the ball rolling on that project? "What would happen if the next all hands meeting got canceled and instead the organization had an all hands-on read instead?" wonders Godin.

It's not a bad suggestion. After all, if you want to signal a cultural change in the office, firing off a memo to the effect of 'everyone feel free to read now' is going to do close to nothing. The only way to really change culture is to change behavior, from the top on down. Others have suggested an office book club if you're looking to encourage a culture of reading and learning.

So what should you read at work? Godin's post offers 20 great suggestions, but there are tons of good ideas here on Inc.com too, including recommendations from Stanford professorsTED speakers, and billionaires.

Honestly, if you saw someone reading a book at work, would you feel like they were slacking?

Published on: Dec 20, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.