Corporate offices and interiors are frontline recruiting tools. Business leaders know that the work environment influences a potential employee’s interest in a company or position. But the work environment has lasting implications, too, beyond that first impression made on potential recruits. The office environment and building also influence company culture in the long-term.

According to Investopedia: Corporate Culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. A company’s culture will be reflected in its dress code, business hours, office setup, employee benefits, turnover, hiring decisions, treatment of clients, client satisfaction and every other aspect of operations.

You’ll note that there is a reference to “office setup” – and in this age of telecommuting millennial knowledge workers, office setup up presents more choices than ever before – and its implications for company culture – from the recruiting process all the way through the employee’s departure should not be underestimated.

If you are curious about company culture, there is plenty of reading materials available. There are scores of books and guides that teach leaders how to improve culture, and build an engaged and productive culture. There are countless studies on the topic of company culture. Why? Company culture has multi-billion dollar implications on the bottom line, and investing in company culture can pay dividends.

Which aspect of company culture gets overlooked but can have an enormous impact? Design! The way a space is designed, the physical environment that people occupy, has a significant impact on how they interact and how they engage with their work.

The conversation about space design and team talent is often centered on productivity – an element of culture, certainly, but not the only measure to pay attention too. An example: It is widely reported that access to quality daylight improves worker productivity, but access to daylight is rarely linked to creating a more engaged company culture. Failing to connect these dots means that owners aren’t getting a complete picture of the pros and cons of certain design decisions. Understanding a design’s potential impact on culture is important and is another way that design directly impacts the bottom line company performance.

Collaboration spaces don’t just provide a place to sit with a tablet or take a call, they are places where people from different teams meet and share ideas. Design – the way a space is created – has huge impacts on how people behave, and the behaviors of a group define the culture.

Simply put: How you design your space is a direct impact on your culture.

Investing in design that celebrates the user turns your workplace into a powerful platform that articulates what you care about and embraces your most important asset – your people.

If you believe the studies on engagement, then you believe that an engaged staff can drive the success of an organization. In the new economy, the demand for innovation is mounting, and we have learned that the more brains on a problem, then better the solution. So more engaged brains in a company where the culture allows people to reach their full potential is a winning formula.

Setting the stage for your workforce is a critical step and the good news is that you don’t need to completely re-organize a building to do it. Here are five simple ideas to improve company culture by addressing the physical work space:

Take down any walls or doors that are barriers to collaboration.

Move executives and leaders into the open office environments so they engage with their direct report.

Make collaboration spaces the most engaging spaces by giving them the best views, daylight, and fresh air

Make individual work spaces smaller and collaboration spaces more varied to get teams up and moving about the office, engaging with their peers.

Take advantage of under-utilized spaces like corridor intersections, lobbies, and break rooms by incorporating furniture that accommodates laptops, and installing large monitors, whiteboards, and collaboration tools.

The design of your space may not be the cure-all for problem culture, but addressing it certainly, help the culture heal. If your physical environment does not support collaboration, then you have an extra hill to climb.

Leadership is hard enough without added walls in the way so bust them down, work a new way, and unleash the potential that’s sitting in the next cubical over.

If your office is using its space to drive culture, tell us about it and share your ideas in the comments.

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2 Comments

  1. Fantastic read. We have all heard it many times before but Rachel made so simple, concise, and trans formative.
    Be cautious you can’t deceive your internal and external customers by just smacking a pretty face on the office…you have to live and breathe it to transform culture.

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