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Workplace Culture: What is it and how can office design impact on it?


In July, Glassdoor published the findings from their Mission & Culture Survey. The results were unexpected but highlighted a significant change in employee requirements for job satisfaction. Glassdoor reported that 77%[1] of adults would consider a company’s culture before applying for a job there. Over half of the 5000 respondents stated that company culture is more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction.

When your workplace culture is this important to today’s workers, how can design influence the impact of a positive work culture?

What is workplace culture?

Workplace culture is personal. It’s the character and personality of your organisation which is made from the sum of the brands values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviours and attitudes.[2]

There are many things to consider when determining your workplace culture. Hiring the right people to effectively communicate your organisation’s mission and vision are key to influencing workplace culture, but it will fall by the wayside if not supported by the right office design. 


Why does office design matter to workplace culture?


A bright, young start-up company full of fresh ideas would unlikely reflect their brand and culture and values in a grey, closed-space office. Your workplace should reflect your office culture, creating a positive workplace that is designed to inspire your employees to embody your cultural values. 

A common but undeniably relevant example of this is shown by Google. Their offices around the world inspire their forward-thinking, modern and fun culture that they are known for. From slides instead of stairs to themed working pods, their workplace design reflects their values to both their current and prospective employees and their customers.


How do workplace culture and design impact on productivity?


Poor culture means poor productivity. According to a report published by BreatheHR, poor company culture is costing the UK economy £23.6 billion per year. [3] While many aspects impact on poor culture, the physical space around your employees can turn a stressful, compact environment into a hub of collaboration and productivity. 

To maintain productivity today, your workplace must consider the diversity of the modern workforce. By 2020, the global workforce will be predominantly made up of millennials (22-37 year olds) (35%) and Generation X (38-53 years old) (35%), with only 6% of baby boomers (54-72%).[4]

Besides, with 20% of all non-EU immigrants moving to the UK for work, workspaces need to work harder to create a space that reflects a culture that is diverse as their workforce. 


Going Global: Why globalisation matters when designing your workspace




Our work-force may be changing, but their needs are habitual. Steelcase conducted an in-depth study of the importance of considering globalisation in workplace design and its impact on office culture. As they explain, “in this new global marketplace, work and workers are shifting locations, and working across organisations, time zones and physical/virtual spaces. As a result, cultures are colliding.”[5]


When designing for globalisation, it’s important to establish what your organisation’s needs are. If your team are located all around the world but collaborate regularly, consider optimising your space to allow large to small online meetings. Have a multi-cultural team? Create an office design that encourages productivity by offering spaces where everyone feels at home; from quiet nooks for concentration to colourful, open spaces that inspire innovation and collaboration. 


The argument from Steelcase is compelling and shows that more needs to be considered by companies when designing spaces in line with their workplace culture. So much so, Steelcase emphasises that we need to understand the opportunities and challenges that a diverse workforce foster. 


To get the best from your workers, it’s important to design a space that fosters trust, improves collaboration and allows the organisation to grow effectively. As champions of positive workplaces, we regularly encourage our clients to consider these factors when planning their office fit-out.


Signs You Need to Re-Design Your Workplace and Culture

1. Are your employees happy?

Have you ever found your team are feeling demotivated, unproductive or unhappy but with no reason why? Speak to your teams about how they like to work. Employees who enjoy collaboration but feel there is a lack of space to do so will feel demotivated. 

2. Who is in the team? 


When it comes to globalisation, there is nothing more frustrating for your employees than a lack of consideration of how they work. Global teams rely heavily on webinar tools to converse and collaborate regularly. Is it time for you to incorporate a specially designed space for this?


3. How is your breakout space looking?

With team members from all corners of the globe or even just varying ages, it’s important to have a breakout space that works for everyone in your team. Look at diversifying spaces and creating a mixture of solitary breakout spots and open spaces to cater to all of your team’s needs.

4. Does your space represent how your organisation feels? 

Whatever your organisation’s personality is, if it isn’t reflected in your workplace design, your culture will fail to represent it. Whether you’re more IBM than Google, make sure your space reflects the culture your organisation embodies. This will lead to engaged and productive team members and create a lasting impression on visitors. 


How Design Impacts on Workplace Culture: Amicus Therapeutics


 Amicus fit-out.jpg

The bio-engineers have offices around the world, spanning the USA, Australia, Japan and various sites across mainland Europe. Meeting the brief for our client meant mirroring Amicus’s culture of caring to achieve productivity while considering their workforce’s varying cultural needs. 

We designed a variety of spaces designed with neutral tones to create a calm, positive workplace. From a wellbeing suite complete with a gym , an all-day staff canteen and open business lounge, we designed a space that met many of the requirements of the European and North American workers. To resonate with their Asian Pacific colleagues, we provided a gaming breakout room and introduced intelligent sound masking technology that linked to waterfalls. This technology modulated sounds based on the background noise caused by speech.


As developers of advanced therapies for rare, devastating diseases, we worked with Amicus to remind their team of their core values every day. Throughout the office fit-out, we incorporated stories of the real people their life-saving treatments have helped. With images and quotes, the space echoed the importance of their work and fostered a culture of productivity. 


With globalisation and their caring culture in mind, the space we created for Amicus was designed around their culture and mission. By mirroring their caring culture to inspire productivity, we designed an empathetic, caring environment where productivity prospered.


Want to create your own positive workplace?

Whether you are gearing up for world domination or an SME, we have over 17 years experience designing and building positive workplaces that have culture at the heart, take a look at our past projects


Want to find out how we can improve in your workplace? Get in touch now

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