You are currently viewing Building our Smart Working Bookshelf – best reads

Building our Smart Working Bookshelf – best reads

Here’s our selection of the best reads relating to Smart Working and the changes needed to working practices and culture, property and technology, with some insights too into the future of work and its wider impacts.

Our selection here offers substance and fresh thinking, and are all by people with strong expertise and experience in the fields they write about. Get in touch if you have other recommendations to add to our bookshelf!

(Note: In the interests of transparency, we draw your attention to the fact that the purchasing links below are affiliate links to From these we would derive small amounts of commission from qualifying purchases if you went on to purchase from the site. Any funds so derived will be used to support the work of the Smart Work Network and the costs of this website. Other ‘real world’ and online retailers are, of course, available. They are all books we genuinely recommend as adding value to the quest to work smarter and address the future of work.)

Nigel Oseland - Beyond the Workplace ZooBeyond the Human Zoo – Humanising the Office
By Nigel Oseland (2022)

Nigel Oseland makes the case for “a human-centric and evidence-based approach” to offices. In this, the book does exactly what it sets out to achieve.

Oseland marshals the evidence for the impacts of office environment on productivity, performance and comfort, looking at a range of factors such as air quality, acoustics, temperature, biophilia, layout, furniture and more, with the best review I’ve seen of the professional and academic literature.

There’s a full review on   Buy on Amazon.

Cover of Beyond Hybrid Working by Andy Lake

Beyond Hybrid Working – A Smarter & Transformational Approach to Flexible Working
By Andy Lake (2024)

Well, a bit self-promoting to add my own book to the list, perhaps – but it’s new in 2024, it’s out there, and is hopefuly useful! Beyond Hybrid Working aims to get beyond the excessive focus on the location of work. It sets out a comprehensive, benefits-focused and integrated approach to delivering a dynamic flexibility, based on management by results and a culture of trust.

It covers the key areas of People, Workplace, and Technology, and how to achieve improvements on all fronts. Special chapters cover how to weave in the integrated approach to improve Productivity, Wellbeing and Sustainability. There’s more here on the website.

The Elemental Workplace – The 12 Elements for Creating a Fantastic Workplace for Everyone
By Neil Usher (2018)

Neil Usher is a serial head of workplace and has managed large-scale change at major companies like Rio Tinto and Sky. He’s also an insightful and increasingly prolific author.

The Elemental Workplace is full of both common sense and challenges to set you thinking about the key ingredients for making a great workplace. with a unique mix of philosophy, humour and great advice.  His other books include Elemental Change – Making Stuff happen When Nothing Stands Still (2020) and the delicately titled Unf*cking Work – How to Fix it For Good (2022)

Buy The Elemental Workplace

How the Future Works – Leading Flexible Teams to do the Best Work of their Lives
By Brian Elliott, Sheela Subramanian & Helen Krupp (2022)

This, along with Beyond the Human Zoo, was one of the best books of 2022. Brian Elliott was Senior Vice President at Slack and headed up, with his co-authors, the Future Forum consortium. How the Future Works takes an evidence-based and practical approach to empowering teams to work in the most effective ways to deliver their best work – and avoiding the WfH/RTO clichés and pitfalls. It’s a book that does what it says on the time, by people who have lived the changes.

There’s a full review on

Buy How the Future Works

The Remote Work Revolution – Succeeding from Anywhere
By Tsedal Neeley (2021)

In the slipstream of the pandemic and the lockdowns, there was a veritable tsunami of instant experts and poorly conceived publications offering wisdom about remote working. So it was a great relief to find a book by someone who knows what they are talking about.

Tsedal Neeley is a professor at Harvard Business School and has a strong industry background, and this shows in the real-world understanding of the business benefits and challenges of remote working. The approach is supported by evidence and case histories throughout.

Buy The Remote Work Revolution

Where is My Office – Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century
By Chris Kane and Eugenia Anastassiou (2nd post-pandemic edition, 2023)

Chris Kane was formerly head of workplace at the BBC, and led the transformation to agile working and the relocation of much BBC production within London and beyond.  The first edition of the book came out in early 2020, and this new edition, with a co-author on board, takes into account more fully the changing context of work that we’ve seen over the following three years.

The book is particularly strong on the opportunities for real estate to have a transformative role in place-making, and argues that we need a completely new service-led approach to how the real estate industry works to respond to the changing needs of the occupiers and for the best experience for end users.

Buy Where is My Office?

Around the World in 250 Coworking Centres
By Pauline Roussel & Dimitar Inchev (2021)

This has to be one of the most interesting books written about the phenomenon of coworking. The main strength is its exploration of the variety of coworking in practice. It’s based, as the title says, on the authors’ travels to visit 250 coworking centres around the world. So there are both growing coworking groups with significant investment behind them and small community-led initiatives. There are centres that focus on knowledge workers (the majority) but also numerous ‘maker spaces’. There are centres with a mission to create local jobs, or to promote sustainability, or both. Many target specific industry sectors (e.g. textiles, architecture, food, transport), or specific target user groups whether women, senior citizens or entrepreneurs.

This is not a book analysing trends and numbers, but it explores, with hundreds of photos, coworking as it is lived and experienced, and captures the passion and challenges of people who are driving this sector forward. It certainly brings the sector and the people driving it to life.

Around the World in 250 Coworking Centres is available from

London’s Global Office Economy – From Clerical Factory to Digital Hub
By Rob Harris (2021)

This is one of the best histories of the growth of the modern office, with thought-provoking insights into the next stages of evolution.

It’s a story of first consolidation of clerical work into offices – spurred by new industries, by global trade and empire and new forms of communication – and now witnessing a process of decentralisation based on digitisation, that creates a new context for more flexible approaches and new models for work and workplace. Through the focus starts in London, it actually follows more of a global path than the title suggests. A lot to learn here.

Buy London’s Global Office Economy – From Clerical Factory to Digital Hub

The Nowhere Office – Reinventing Work and the Workplace of the Future
By Julia Hobsbawm (2023)

This is a very readable book by business journalist and entrepreneur Julia Hobsbawm, with all kinds of interesting insights, anecdotes and quotes from interviews. Her grounded view of the ‘Nowhere Office” is encapsulated in a passage about the distributed and nomadic office systems underpinning the D-Day landings in Normandy: “The office of D-Day proved … that the office is not so much a place as a system”. Hobsbawm also places the changing location of (office) work in a wider social and political context. The chapter on “Social Health and Wellbeing” is particularly insightful.

Buy The Nowhere Office

Beyond Live/Work – The Architecture of Home-based Work
By Frances Holliss (2014)

Working from home is not new! We probably all knew that, but this book by architect and academic Frances Holliss provides the detail into just how extensive and varied home-based working has been all around the world. The book explores the various architectural forms these have taken in pre-industrial, industrial and post-industrial times, and offers something of a blueprint for the future. This book was written in 2014 and resonates even more now that society has become more generally aware of the possibilities. But as the book shows, it’s not only about knowledge work. It can be about all kinds of hands-on work and enterprise – as long as the design of dwellings supports that. And currently – it doesn’t!

Frances spoke to the Network in March 2021 – there’s a short report here. Her presentation is available to members in the downloads section (login required)

Buy Beyond Live/Work

The New World of Work – Shaping a Future that Helps People, Organizations and our Societies to Thrive
By Peter Cheese (2021)

Peter Cheese, CEO of the Chartered institute of Personnel and Development has always been a supporter of greater flexibility as a key ingredient of making work better. Here he makes the case for putting people strategy at the heart of business change, in a rapidly changing world.

The book covers economic, social, demographic, technological and geopolitical change, and maps a way forward for better leadership, improvements in education and training and the need for organisations to focus on the right things. These include a greater focus on wellbeing, equality and happiness as outcomes as well as business success. The goal should be to become “agile learning organisations”.

Buy The New World of Work

Redesigning Work – How to Transform Your Organisation & Make Hybrid Work for Everyone
By Lynda Gratton (2022)

Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice at the London Business School, is a high-profile author on the future of work. Previous books have included The 100 Year Life (which challenges our traditional models of employment in the light of demographic and social change – and longer lives) and The Shift, which explores wider trends in the world of work.

Redesigning Work sets out some practical methods for helping organisations embrace hybrid working, balancing the needs of the business and of individuals.

Buy Redesigning Work

The Human-Centric Workplace – Enabling People, Communities and our Planet to Thrive
By Simone Fenton-Jarvis (2022)

This is a book that goes big on inclusion and how to achieve a truly people-centred workplace.

The author takes no prisoners in setting out what makes for a human-centric work culture, and provides steps on how to achieve it. She makes the case for organisations supporting people in all ways to be their authentic self, while continually improving ways of working.

Flexibility and agility are at the heart of this, and being open to future change.

Buy The Human-centric Workplace

4-Day Week book The 4 Day Week – How the Flexible Work Revolution Can Increase Productivity, Profitability and Well-being, and Create a Sustainable Future
By Andrew Barnes with Stephanie Jones (2020)

Andrew Barnes spoke to the Smart Work Network about his global campaign for a 4-day week. His book adds in the essential detail that distinguishes his approach, which focuses on productivity as much as employee benefit, from the traditional approach to a compressed working week.

The campaign continues to make waves in trials around the world, and the ideas are being adopted in whole or in part by many organisations. Currently, there’s all kinds of confusion and talking at cross-purposes in the media, busineesss and governments. This book sets out what it’s really all about.

Buy The 4 Day Week

Unworking – The Reinvention of the Modern Office
By Jeremy Myerson and Philip Ross (2022)

Jeremy Myerson and Philip Ross are two of the leading thinkers around workplace change and the future of work, running the WorkTech Academy and the long-running WorkTech series of global  conferences.

The book is broad-ranging, covering the history of the office before moving on to look at current and future developments, encompassing smart buildings, new models of space use and provision, new ways of working, the impacts of technology, hybridity of various kinds, and changes to urban form. “Unworking” is about unlearning what we know, and reinventing work and workplaces.

Buy Unworking: The Reinvention of the Modern Office


Here are a couple of slightly older books that were ahead of their time and still resonate:

Future Work – Changing Organizational Culture for the New World of Work
By Alison Maitland & Peter Thomson (2nd edition, 2014)

Business journalist and inclusion expert Alison Maitland joined forces with flexible work and telework expert Peter Thomson to make a lively and very readable case for flexibility and agility.

There’s a strong focus on productivity and business benefits that anchors the book in the real world, along with its case examples of organisations that were ahead of the game

Buy Future Work

The Smarter Working Manifesto – When, Where and How do you Work Best?
By Guy Clapperton & Philip Vanhoutte (2014)

Our own Philip Vanhoutte had implemented Smarter Working at Plantronics, and this unashamedly evangelical manifesto sets out how to do it, and do it well.

It’s practical, strong on technology, work organisation, leadership and what it takes to be a smarter working professional and effective virtual team. The importance of having a strategic approach covering “bricks, bytes and behaviours” is central.

Buy The Smarter Working Manifesto

Leave a Reply