What Kind of Culture Is Your Workplace Promoting?
What messages is your office sending to employees? Everything from the simple arrangement of chairs to the overall distribution of office space sends signals to employees about company values, and successful workplaces are aligned with company culture.
I sat down with Melissa Marsh of PLASTARC, a consultancy dedicated to optimizing the workplace for organizational performance, to talk about the building blocks of aligning culture and physical environment. At CultureIQ, we talk about the “10 qualities common to high-performance companies,” while PLASTARC is committed to building upon the “six pillars of a successful workplace.” Because the workplace has such a powerful effect on an employee’s experience at a company, each of the six pillars can feed into and promote CultureIQ’s 10 qualities of a high-performance company.
So, what happens when you bring two workplace geeks together? A fantastic discussion about the intersection of the office environment and company culture. Consider these ideas to ensure you’re walking the walk when it comes to your culture and workplace.
This is the first article in our series about the intersection of the office environment and company culture. If this topic fascinates you as much as it does us, stay tuned for some additional insight.
PLASTARC advises that we “default to diversity.” The more diverse your office space is, the more easily you will accommodate the different work styles and preferences of employees. Diversity can be as small as varying the lighting in each room or having themed conference rooms, or as big as offering diverse options for work space throughout the office.
An added benefit of physical diversity in the workplace is its impact on memory; a unique space can become a reference point for what you learned in that environment. Physical environments create a multi-sensory experience, so these impacts are not limited to the visual aspects of workplace design. Keep temperature, textures, sound, etc. in mind along with aesthetics.
A workplace that values autonomy allows employees at all levels to choose the setting that makes them most productive. Fostering this autonomy not only requires a diversity of available work spaces, but also that employees have the trust, confidence, and knowledge to use those spaces in the ways that work best for them.
For example, open floor plans have received a lot of attention recently for the challenges they present to introverts. If your company offers a diversity of spaces and employee autonomy, then both introverts and extroverts can make the space work for their needs.
A “reusable” workplace includes spaces with multiple potential uses, and makes it easy for occupants to take advantage of all of them. Reusability can be taken together with the autonomy principle; it is equally important for the space to be multifunctional, and for employees to have the permission and authority to make the space what they need it to be.
Sustainability & Wellness
Sustainability is “moving from an option to a must-have.” Employees and prospective employees are increasingly seeking out sustainable business practices in their work.
Additionally, Melissa points out that designing with sustainability in mind has a positive impact on employee wellness. Many components of a sustainable building are also those of a healthier workplace.
The workplace serves as “a built – physical, and verifiable – version of what an organization says it does and values,” Melissa explains. There are no neutral messages in design, and the details of design reveal the difference between the authentic and the artificial. This is the chance to “walk the talk”; the physical workplace is an opportunity to establish a “for us, by us” feel, through material decisions and behaviors. In other words, it’s an opportunity to create, communicate, and promote your company’s culture and values!
A workplace should be close and easily accessible to employees, and it should allow for closeness within the space. Propinquity (closeness and density) in the office is important on both of these levels – large and small scale.
Comfortable density within the space will result in people seeing each other, talking to each other, and sharing with each other, creating a sense of community through space as part of your company’s culture. PLASTARC also recommends considering the use of technology to achieve connection across multiple locations, if your organization is geographically distributed.
What does all of this mean for you? There is a lot to think about, but the workplace is a powerful and often under-leveraged cultural tool, so your efforts will pay off. You can start by taking a look at your stated company values. If your office space doesn’t align with your core values, then consider the factors above and start adjusting piece by piece!