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Office Space

The Influence of Office space on Culture

“The office” in some industries is becoming an outdated idea, in others it remains critical to business function. Office design vacillated between open plan and closed door cubicles over the past 100 years. For a great recap check here, and you will see that what you might think as future-focused open plan space is actually an old idea. Unfortunately, many companies take on massive cost to transform their spaces just because it’s trendy, and not because it’s what their teams require.

Huge investments have gone into making the workplace more fun, and keeping employees happy when at work – think Google and King Price. These office transformations are also designed to stimulate creative thought and ideally, should ensure that each employee works optimally (when at work). Is this true and can you be sure that the investment you plan to make is going to pay dividends? The most innovative work in startups occur in a garage with literally nothing around. By the same token, it is also not too difficult to find an old office with no special trimmings and all the employees are engaged with great team performance. So what gives?

Changing your office space does not automatically change your culture. Think of it as one tool of many that aids in building an intentional culture. Do you want a culture that promotes innovation? Then think about putting up a whiteboard next to your coffee station. Do you want a culture that respects the individual? Then stop your hot-desk policy and assign each person their own space. Do you want a culture that breaks down silos between departments? Then stop grouping spaces for departments.

There are many alternatives for many aspects of your culture, start by visualising the culture your team needs, and then think about the spaces that will promote certain behaviours and inhibit others. So here is my question, what kind of a culture is your office space promoting?

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Assessing your immediate atmosphere

Your environment’s culture is not just the way things get done, it’s the way you and those around you think. Culture can form perceptions and act as a filter to the way you are viewing the world around you. It’s easy to think that you are somehow isolated to those around you, but how often has your mood changed because someone spilled their coffee on you? Or when someone complains about some injustice in the workplace, you feel that same sense of discomfort with your environment? It’s easy to conceive how people can negatively affect you, especially if you score high in trait neuroticism. The opposite is also handy to know, if someone can help you get into a good mood, then you yourself might have some hope of influencing those around you more positively.

Excellent culture should allow people the freedom to express themselves while;

  • providing the filter that inhibits the ‘spilling over’ of negativity
  • acting as a conductor to maximise the potential of positivity

This might seem simple enough, but how does one go about creating such an environment? There is no recipe for success unfortunately as the dynamics of all cultures differ and are inherently subjective. The first step at least could be to test the conductivity of your culture for yourself. The last time you got to work in an excellent mood, how long did it last, and how many of your colleagues were actually positively affected?