A WorkShift reading list: 7 books to read about the future of work

As part of CBC Radio's WorkShift project, here are seven reads exploring the future of work.
What will the future of work look like? (Shutterstock)

It's a new world of work out there — and CBC Radio is exploring what's happening, how it's affecting Canadians and what the future of work will look like through a special project called WorkShift.

WorkShift is a month-long radio and digital series examining the profound changes in the way people work. Several CBC Radio shows are exploring what it means to work todayWorkShift is also asking Canadians to contribute and share their stories about their workplace and their experiences around how present and future technologies are changing the shape of the traditional 9-to-5.  

If you're thinking about the future of work, here are seven books that highlight, examine and predict what work might look like.

The Future We Want by Bhaskar Sunkara & Sarah Leonard 

The Future We Want looks at what the progressive world of work might look like in the coming years. ( Books/

What it's about: What would finance look like without Wall Street? Or the workplace with responsibility shared by the entire workforce? Edited by Leonard and Sunkara, young cultural and political critics dismantle the usual liberal solutions to America's ills and propose a pragmatic alternative. From a campaign to limit work hours, to a program for full employment, to proposals for a new feminism,The Future We Want looks at what the progressive world of work might look like in the coming years.

Excerpt:  "We were told that in the knowledge economy good jobs followed higher education; there are few jobs, and we lock ourselves into miserable ones as quickly as possible to feed the loan sharks." 

Gen Z @ Work by David Stillman and Jonah Stillman

Jonah Stillman and father David Stillman are the authors of Gen Z @ Work. (HarperBusiness)

What it's about: Move over, millennials! A generations expert and author teams up with his 17-year-old son to introduce the next influential demographic group to join the workforce — Generation Z, individuals born between between 1995 and 2012. 

Excerpt: "Gen Z is the first generation born into a world where every physical aspect (people and places) has a digital equivalent. For Gen Z, the real world and the virtual world naturally overlap. Virtual is simply part of their reality."

How to Be Happy at Work by Annie McKee 

Annie McKee is author of How to Be Happy at Work. (Harvard Business Press)

What it's about: Life's too short to be unhappy at work, according to this book by Annie McKee. The author makes a case for why happiness ― and the full engagement that comes with it ― is more important than ever in today's workplace 

Excerpt: "Like meaning, hope is an essential part of our human experience. This is as true at work as in any corner of our lives. Hope, optimism, and a vision of a future that is better than today help us rise above trials and deal with setbacks."

The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey delves into the nature of being productive in The Productivity Project. (Chris Roussakis/Penguin Random House)

What it's about: Ottawa-based Chris Bailey turned down lucrative job offers to pursue a lifelong dream — to spend a year performing a deep dive experiment into the pursuit of productivity. After obtaining his business degree, he created a blog to chronicle a year-long series of productivity experiments he conducted on himself: he used his smartphone for just an hour a day for three months; he stretched his work week to 90 hours; and he got up at 5:30 a.m. every morning for three months.

Excerpt: "Productivity is what makes the difference between someone who runs a company and the employees who work for her. It is also the difference between having no time or energy left at the end of the day and having a ton of time and energy left over to invest however you want."

Redesigning Work by Graham Lowe and Frank Graves 

Based on survey research, Graham Lowe and Frank Graves examine the future of work. (University of Toronto Press/Jadon Barnes/Unsplash)

What it's about:Redesigning Work offers up a blueprint for the future of work, based on surveys of Canadians that identify practical ways to make work more motivating, rewarding and productive.

Excerpt: "There's no shortage of reasons to be pessimistic about the future. The boom-and-bust roller coaster of the past decade has reshaped Canadian society but not how Canadians want. The dynamics of the twenty-first-century-economy have ruptured the late twentieth-century ethic of progress — the belief the opportunities for a middle-class life were widely available." 

Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford

Rise of the Robots by author Martin Ford looks how technology shapes the future of work. (Basic Books)

What it's about: What are the jobs of the future? How many will there be? And who will have them? As technology continues to accelerate and machines begin taking care of themselves, will fewer people be necessary?

Excerpt: "Technology, of course, will not shape the future in isolation. Rather, it will intertwine with other major societal and environmental challenges such as an aging population, climate change, and resource depletion. It's often predicted that a shortage of workers will eventually develop as the baby boom generation exits the workforce, effectively counterbalancing — or perhaps even overwhelming — any impact from automation."

The Weekend Effect by Katrina Onstad

Author Katrina Onstad looks at how we need to protect our time on the weekend. (Harper Collins/Katrina Onstad)

What it's about: Toronto-based journalist, author and former CBC network executive Katrina Onstad examines today's "always-connected" 24/7 work culture and why humans need to reclaim free time on the weekend. 

Excerpt: "For many of today's (gratefully) employed, the workweek has no clear beginning or end. The digital age imagined by science fiction is upon us, yet we're lacking robot butlers and the three-day workweek that economist John Maynard Keynes predicted in 1928… The weekend has become an extension of the workweek, which means, by definition, it's not a weekend at all."


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