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The culture of a workplace is not only influenced by the physical layout of an office environment, but by the collective interaction of the people who work in it. While a company can do everything to create a comfortable workspace with the best equipment, ergonomic chairs and meal options, what makes all of these aspects tie together and encourage a cohesive social environment?
On a physiological level, the actual design of the workplace has been receiving greater attention as certain businesses make an effort to be recognised for their innovative approach to interior design. Instead of just putting all employees into the same space, businesses that are being celebrated for their particular company culture are investing in cutting-edge facilities to house their operations and placing greater emphasis on how the space itself encourages certain kinds of behaviour.
A company’s culture is the starting point, as the kinds of behavior or work ethic you want to encourage largely depends on the kind of work that needs to be done. In an innovative tech company, for example, environments that are conducive to collaboration between different teams would be important to ensure a consistent flow of new ideas. In this kind of workspace, it would also be necessary to have certain quieter areas where programmers can focus on coding and getting down to the nitty gritty of actually building applications and/or software.
In large, multinational corporations, company culture is valuable for creating a sense of connectedness across continents, where a common thread of interaction and tradition can create a sense of belonging and familiarity for employees, even when they don’t speak the same language. Google for example, is famous for its innovative and fun approach to office design and an open and collaborative workspace, which attracts people from all over the world to work in their variety of international headquarters, from Silicon Valley to Tel Aviv.
Company culture can even extend further than a physical office space, and into digital workspaces, facilitated by group video chat, text based applications and other kinds of collaborative software. Teams that work in different parts of the world might not always be able to share a desk, but a sense of belonging or cohesion can be maintained even in a virtual capacity. Besides the need to communicate frequently about tasks, workflow and ideas, being able to meet and interact across continents is therefore an important element of company culture within a geographically diverse team.
In either case, whether designing a physical workplace or relevant software tools to facilitate cross-continental communication, the company’s core values and organisational culture will be evident the way that these elements are presented or managed. A company that values open communication, for example, would need to look at the way in which both physical and digital workspace design facilitates or hinders open discussion. Is it easy to get in touch with a senior staff member to ask a question? Or is management inaccessible, and cut off from the rest of the team in a separate office?
While current trends might favour a collaborative and open office environment, it can still be relevant to have these kinds of hierarchal distinctions between members of staff and different management levels, as long as this is based on awareness. This can even extend to elements of the workplace such as the way people dress, or an overall aesthetic that celebrates conformity or individuality. In our experience, company culture can be communicated even on an unconscious level, so it’s important to be aware of the divisions that can be created even with the best intentions to maintain a cohesive work environment.