Culture Shock: How Workplace Redesign Can Shake Up Company Practices
When starting a new job, the first question on many people’s lips is often: “what’s the company culture like?” Though many people would struggle to precisely define a term like “company culture”, we all implicitly understand what it means, and that it sums up not only business ethos and values, but also how staff members approach their work and communicate with one another. With a healthy culture in place, employees will work well together and be positive and motivated; but if the opposite is true, productivity can suffer and communication can break down.
The question is: how can a company initiate a shift in company culture without shaking up the business from top to bottom? As it turns out, workplace design can play a huge role.
Identifying Your Company’s Working Style
In a recent paper published by Haworth, four different working styles were identified: the Collaborate Culture, the Create Culture, the Control Culture and the Compete Culture. Collaborate Culture has a focus on team-building, flexibility and sensitivity. Create Culture puts an emphasis on innovation, experimentation and individuality. Control Culture values procedure, stability and structure, while Compete Culture is about getting fast results and achieving success over external rivals.
As noted, “pure cultures of Create, Control, Collaborate, or Compete are rare” but, for companies who aren’t sure how to define their culture, it can be helpful to begin thinking about which of these categories – whether alone or in combination – best describe your current, or hoped for, working practices.
Implementing Design Changes
It may be that you’re content with your company culture, and simply want to redesign your workplace to better facilitate that culture. However, many businesses may find that they can cause a proactive change by addressing design issues first. Changing an office space will naturally cause an adaptation in working style amongst your employees.
A company seeking to be more collaborative, for instance, will want to design an office space that is open-plan, with multiple group working areas and informal hangout spots. The layout should be organic and flexible, so that it is easily adapted to all kinds of situations. Hot-desking and open meeting areas will help facilitate this style of collaborative working, encouraging people to work together in a way that feels natural and productive.
By contrast, a company seeking to move to a more controlled way of working will want to prioritise individual working spaces. In a company where deadlines are paramount, internal procedures must be adhered to strictly, and individual working hours are fixed, a sense of structure should be reflected within the office design. Meeting areas will be more formal and enclosed, and the layout will have a symmetry that suggests equality and unity.