The Living Workplace: Soul, Spirit and Success in the
21st Century, by Ann Coombs with Marion E. Raycheba, $32, cloth
0-00-200044-X, 256 pp., 5 x 8, HarperCollins Canada, Feb. Reviewed from bound
A few years ago I taught English as
a prestigious private school, an experience that left me feeling like an
indentured servant. Wanting a more balanced life, with time for family and
friends, I left for the more precarious life of a freelance writer. Do I have
any regrets? Only that I didnt leave sooner.
My stress was not unique. Today, people are
working longer hours than ever and with technology creating a virtual
office, its hard to feel as if we ever leave work behind. According
to Ann Coombs, the corporate world must adapt quickly to an impending shift in
the idea of work. Corporate loyalty is a thing of the past, making
everyone an entrepreneur in charge of their own career. The old militaristic
model of work, a kind of parent-child model, is finished, and, culturally,
spirituality is booming.
For employers, Coombs intelligent and
reasoned book should sound a warning bell. She argues that companies must
inspire employee loyalty or face losing skilled workers in a tight labour
market. But how does one inspire such loyalty? Coombs analyzes such fissures in
the workplace as office rage and toxic attitudes, then outlines her formula for
creating a trusting, respectful and truth-filled environment.
The Living Workplace includes
questionnaires, problem-solving examples from Coombs own consultancy, and
advice for those establishing their own business. She affirms that paying lip
service to values wont work. Its not just a matter of giving
employees time off to meditate, she argues, but of managers living according to
the ethics they espouse.
Although Im skeptical about Coombs
larger, Utopian visiongiven the limitations of human natureThe
Living Workplace is a timely book for Canadian businesses. It is fair
and gracefully written, free of new-age jargon, and a good place to begin
reflecting on longer-term planning. ~ Reviewed by Susan Hughes, a special
correspondent for the Irish Independent in Toronto and a contributor
to Travelers Tales Guides in the U.S.