Your office design is a love note to your employees and a genuine reflection of your company culture and employee satisfaction.
While you shop for chocolate covered strawberries, colorful flower bouquets, and other goodies for that special someone in your life, take a moment to think about what might make your employees feel enamored and engaged: namely office design. That’s right, the physical features of your workspace have a pronounced effect on the way your employees think, feel, and behave—essential features of company culture. That means Facilities plays a crucial role in the formation and maintenance of this culture.
But First, What Is Your Culture?
Harvard Business Review has boiled down corporate culture into eight distinct types: Caring, Purpose, Learning, Enjoyment, Results, Authority, Safety, Order.
The first four corporate culture types tend to favor flexible environments—being more open to change—while the latter four tend to favor more stable environments. However, Authority, Results, Enjoyment, and Learning types tend to also favor more independence than Caring, Purpose, Safety, and Order types.
Your company may fit perfectly into one of these culture types, or a more common workplace type. Once you’ve identified your company’s culture, Facilities can discuss how you want that culture to be expressed and reinforced through your office design.
Once you’ve identified your company’s culture, you can discuss how you want that culture to be expressed and reinforced through your office design—both decor and layout. Layout is how you use your office space. Decor is one way to differentiate these spaces.
How to Express Your Culture Through Your Office Layout
All eight culture types have varying needs when it comes to sound levels, interaction needed with other coworkers, and how much space is needed for various work activities. Here are some ways to think about these needs.
Benching vs. Cubicles
This is a biggie. If you have teams that tend to collaborate more, as is common in the Caring, Purpose, Safety, and Enjoyment cultures, think about clusters of workspaces or even benching. If you have teams that prefer quieter spaces, like the Authority, Results, Learning, and Order cultures, think more along the lines of cubicles.
Authority, Results, Learning, and Order cultures can all need spaces even more private than cubicles, whether that’s because they feature roles that require more privacy for legal or competitive reasons, or because the quality of their work depends more on their ability to concentrate. Private offices may seem old-school in an open-office-obsessed world, but they are essential for these kinds of cultures. So, don’t retire the private office just yet.
Conference rooms should have a different energy than spaces devoted to regular employee work. Fun names are an easy way to differentiate, but establishing room themes that mesh with your culture can deepen the connection, especially when reinforced by the decor. Google’s office in New York, for example, includes rooms named after neighborhoods like Washington Heights and landmarks like Radio City.
Wellness is a concept that can have a place in several of these cultures, including Purpose and Caring types, and you can cater to them with a variety of wellness-themed break rooms, like Box Studio’s “Zen Den.” But even if your company has very results-oriented employees that might benefit from space to re-center themselves, consider turning a break room into a meditation room. For Enjoyment types, think about bringing an outdoor feel to the workplace.
Reception is the first area your visitors see when they walk into your office. If you’re a more Caring environment, you want a warm, perhaps even cafe-like ambiance to greet people. Enjoyment cultures might think about life-sized Jenga or other games to give visitors a fun way to pass the time as they wait.
How Do Office Decor and Company Culture Interact?
Companies often treat culture development and office design as two completely separate efforts.This is a huge missed opportunity. After all, what could be a better inspiration for the design of your company’s physical space than its mission, value, ethics, expectations, and goals? Could there be a stronger reminder for those intangibles than the way the company’s physical space is put together?
The Walls Speak
Some companies have a culture centered around a particular Purpose where idealism and altruism are primary drivers. Maybe they are focused on being united to do good for the long-term future of the world. In that case, having visual reminders of your shared ideals such as posters, artwork or hand-painted messages on the walls might be the way to go. A company that is united around selling functional training equipment so people can get stronger and more mobile might give their employees exercise balls and standing desks instead of chairs to reinforce that purpose.
The Sum of All the Parts
Other companies have cultures centered around Learning. They might choose to infuse the office design with things that promote exploration, expansiveness, and creativity. Maybe there’s a climbing wall in the entryway. And to do the kind of deep work required to really learn, sometimes people need complete silence. So the more creative types might be tucked away in a quieter part of the office or have access to soundproof office pods.
Even the Floor Plan
Where employees are placed in the office could also affect your culture. Pixar, for example, famously put animators, execs, and editors all in the same work area and saw collaboration across those groups skyrocket. A study from Cornerstone and Harvard Business School found that placing the right type of workers near each other, “…generates a 15 percent increase in performance and up to $1 million in annual profit, while placing toxic employees next to each other increases the probability that one of them will be terminated by 27 percent.”
With Facilities at the table, you can win your employee’s hearts.
Facilities management has evolved from the days of changing light bulbs and stocking the break room. Today, facilities managers have earned a seat at the table in discussions around company culture and office design. Next time your company takes up those topics, make sure that seat isn’t empty.
With a well-designed and decorated office that reflects your values, your employees will be eager to take their working relationship with your business to the next level.