The moment either a visitor or an employee first steps into a company’s workplace, they learn about two things: the company’s business focus and the culture of its people, both of which are reflections of one another. What ties the two together is the workplace itself.
The design and environment of a workplace amount to more than just the paint on the walls or the choice of furniture within the space. More importantly, workplace design is about how the workplace is set up for business to function effectively, and about how employees, clients, and other visitors are able to interact with one other. Workplace design is an important factor in establishing the workplace culture and, therefore, overall business operation.
Today, we see workplace design evolving beyond just providing amenities for company employees. Many offices have followed in Google’s footsteps, adopting employee perks like snack rooms with free food, fitness and wellness areas, game rooms, etc., all of which showcase a “fun” company culture.
However, the biggest mistake companies make is blindly copying what Google has done and employing it in their organization, not really understanding what is best for their own culture. What works for Google won’t necessarily work for your business. Analyze what you do, and go with your business needs first.
How do you determine what is the best way for your organization to showcase its culture and business model? Here are four easy steps to keep in mind when redesigning your workplace to boost your company’s culture and overall business:
Step No. 1: Identify Your Company’s Core Business Values
As mentioned before, a company’s culture is a reflection of its business model, and workplace design plays an important role in establishing both. If you’re looking to redesign your workplace, you must first identify your company’s business model. Then, see how it fits within the office space. Ask yourself these questions:
- What are my business needs?
- Do I want my employees to grow within my company? If so, does the office space allow for this?
- Which aspects of the business are fixed, and which are adaptable?
- What do my employees do on a daily basis, and how can I make their jobs more efficient?
- How does technology choreograph the workday?
The answers to these questions will be the backbone of your organization. They will affect the layout of the office space, how your organization utilizes the space to its full effect, and how your employees interact with each other.
Additionally, innovative workplace design ideas come from understanding the business process and the personalities that help move the process along. For example, if you have a business in which employees don’t normally collaborate with their colleagues, including a game room or some kind of open, social environment is important to provide a balance in the work culture. On the contrary, if you have an open floor plan, it’s best to include some private areas to allow for group meetings and other more focused types of work. Remember: A bespoke workplace needs to reflect the company’s identity and culture, and every organization is different.
Step No. 2: Collaborate With HR and Listen to Your Staff, but Within Limits
Ask your employees what they want in and out of the workplace, and get the raw data from your HR department. Be sure employees can respond to this survey anonymously, as that will allow them to give their honest opinions. This, in turn, will allow the architect/design team to get a better sense of the level of change needed within the workspace.
That being said, you must also understand the limits of your flexibility. You can balance what works within the workspace and what people want while aligning it with your company’s core business values. The best cultures have leaders who truly listen to staff and are not afraid to make decisions.
Step No. 3: Partner With a Visionary Team to Formulate Innovative Ideas
To ensure that your vision for the workplace comes to fruition, partner with a visionary team to formulate innovative ideas that will work for your organization. Do your research and meet with various architects/designers to find your ideal partner. This should be a team that understands your vision and can bring it to life.
Maybe you simply need a coat of paint and some new furniture? Or perhaps your office space is in need of a complete gut renovation and overhaul? The visionaries you want to work with will have all these conversations with you, and they lead you down the best path.
Step No. 4: Design for a Forward-Thinking Culture
Once you have decided on your architect/design team, collaborate and work on a plan to design a forward-thinking culture. Understand your organization’s past and where it’s going, ensuring that all aspects of the design process match with your organization’s goals.
At the same time, you want to take risks and keep things upbeat and fun. Any industry can be “cool” with the right design elements. One easy tip is to incorporate timeless elements into your workplace design to ensure that your space stands the test of time, instead of solely focusing on what is currently on trend. For example, back in the 1990s and early 2000s, walls within conference rooms were constructed with cutouts to accommodate box TV sets and hide wiring. Today, we have flat screen TVs that don’t need the indented space in the walls.
Remember: You must recognize which aspects of your business are going to change with technology and make sure you have the flexibility to adapt to these changes.
Developing your company’s culture and business through effective workplace design takes time, patience, and effort, but the results are truly rewarding.
Brent Capron is the interior design director at the New York office of Perkins+Will, an interdisciplinary, research-based architecture and design firm established in 1935.