Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: I am not an interior designer. Nothing in this blog post is intended as a recommendation for how you can make your work environment look more attractive or appealing.
My interest is in corporate culture, and in the different ways in which it is shaped and made manifest. My contention is that everything about your company reflects the core values of your culture—and, conversely, that even something as seemingly innocuous as the office layout can either enhance or detract from those cultural values.
I’m not alone in thinking this. Forbes recently ran a great piece, detailing ways in which business owners can facilitate culture through their office environments. The article argues that it is important to have an office space that makes people want to go to work, a point that should be pretty obvious: If your physical work environment cultivates creativity, encourages teamwork, and ultimately serves as a pleasant way to pass eight or nine hours each day, your employees are likely to do better work. Lock your staff in some windowless basement somewhere, and—well, you get the idea.
The question is, how can you lay out your office in a way that boosts morale and creativity, and ultimately enhances your culture? There are a few takeaways from the Forbes article that I quite like.
If you have all of your employees holed up in their own separate cubicles, without any common area in which they can mingle, you’re probably not getting the best out of them—and you’re certainly not cultivating a culture of openness or of collaboration. “If you have big brains working in your building, you want them bumping into each other – not just sitting at a lump of wood,” the article contends. “When you create a bit of flexibility, you’re creating a whole new dynamic in the workplace.”
“We shape buildings but they shape us too,” Forbes suggests—which is reason enough for business owners to ensure that they’re offering décor that truly stimulates. An environment devoid of any kind of stimuli is one that can have a corrosive mental and emotional impact—just ask anyone who’s ever served time in prison—so employers who want to foster a culture of productivity need to ensure that their office space is really engaging and inspiring team members. Bare walls probably won’t cut it.
Do you think establishing company culture is as easy as putting your logo up on all the walls? Think again. Forbes cites a leading health and wellness company that wanted to establish its own company culture as a “blueprint” for wellbeing. As such, the company now has an organic canteen, a state-of-the-art gym, and more. You may not have the resources for such upscale offerings at your own office, but you’d better believe that every choice you make about your work environment says something about what your company truly values.
And really, that’s my bottom line here: Your office space is more than just utilitarian. It says something about what kind of company you’re running, and it also shapes and informs the kind of company you’re running.