Shape Company Culture Through Office Design

By wizu | 28 July 2020

Company culture is an often-overlooked aspect of running a business when it should be one of the first considerations to set a company up for success. When it comes to creating company culture, it isn’t just about creating a company logo. Company culture can be created and supported through office design.

What is Company Culture?

Company culture is comprised of the attitudes and behaviours of a company and its employees. But what does this include? Company culture is determined by leadership style, values, ethics, company mission, expectations and goals. It is also the method used the grow the business, how employees are treated, expectations, goals and more. These apply to all levels of the company—from the leaders to all the employees.

While company culture can be determined actively or passively, it can also be determined by office design. This is a new concept for many people. Let’s do a short review of the main types of company culture, and then take a look at the best types of office designs for each one.

Four Main Types of Company Culture

There are four main types of company culture: clan, hierarchy, adhocracy and market. Can you find your company culture represented here?

Clan culture: this type of company typically has a friendly working environment, which has a “family” feel. Here, managers work to empower employees, and the atmosphere is one of collaboration and working together. People within the company tend to have a lot in common, and there are feelings of strong loyalty, tradition, and more.

Hierarchy: this type of company has a very formal way of doing business and the environment will be more structured. Leadership is from the top down, with centralised power at the top. In a hierarchical company culture, there’s stress put on following rules and keeping to company guidelines, with the goal of running the business efficiently, with consistent results, and predictable outcomes.

Adhocracy: is an innovative, dynamic company environment, where employees are encouraged to take chances and try new things. Management’s function is to enable employees to be innovative and creative. Power is more equilateral in this environment, meaning that rather than power flowing from the top down, it flows from person to person. This office culture has also been called “playful,” as they offer employees space to have fun and take a break from work.

Market: this is a culture where the company wants everyone to get down to business and getting things done. Here, the environment is competitive, even among team members. The goal of this type of business is to make money and earn a large share of the market.

Each of these culture types requires employees and leaders to work together in different ways. For this reason, each type of company culture will benefit from a specific type of office design. In the next sections, we’ll take a look at what type of environment is best for each of the four company cultures. 

Open Spaces are Best for Clan Culture

Open spaces are the best office design to support a clan culture. However, this must be done carefully, keeping in mind that the goal is facilitate the collaboration and communication between employees. The office design should also include elements that spark inspiration and creativity.

Workspaces may have a smaller footprint for each individual, and if there are panels between workspace these will need to be lower. Or you may consider completely doing away with panels, in order to help employees and teams to work more effectively with one another.

Design elements may include cubicles for independent work (these should have lower walls), and then shared spaces for cooperation sessions. It may also be helpful to include elements that help to reduce sound, which can be distracting for some employees. This could be accomplished through the use of soundproofing materials, telephone pods, quiet areas, and more.

Fixed Spaces Work Best for Hierarchical & Market Cultures

Hierarchical and market office cultures both benefit from office designs that include fixed spaces. This is because everyone tends to focus on their tasks, working toward a deadline to accomplish a specific goal. For these reasons, employees need a work environment that reduces distractions and interruptions.

Office design elements should be fixed or structured, in the sense of creating a stable environment (where things do not change too often). Office furniture may be a little heavier (or have a heavier appearance), and employees will need to have the right technology to help them stay productive and get work done.

Connectivity is also key, so including docking stations and charge poles will allow employees to connect and recharge from anywhere in the office. In addition, separate areas or meeting rooms can be created as spaces dedicated to collaboration. Office furniture, for this culture, is usually more traditional when it comes to office furniture and décor.

Design elements that reduce noise levels will also be beneficial to both the hierarchical and market office cultures.

Flexible Office Design for Adhocracy Culture

For an adhocracy culture, the office will need to include spaces that allow employees to get away from work and have some fun. Office design elements can include breakout areas where employees can sit and visit comfortably and/or space for employees to play games together. This might mean the incorporation of a pool table, ping-pong table, and more.

Another helpful room that many “playful” companies are using is a nap room. Here, employees can take a break and catch a snooze at the same time. Other quiet areas may include a reading room, a kitchen and more.

When it comes to workspaces, they should be flexible and allow for individuals to work alone, or a team to gather for an impromptu meeting. This type of design could make use of movable furniture such as workstations that can be separate, but then moved together to create a conference table when necessary. Office elements can also include phone pods, moveable walls and more. It’s all about creating an environment that is creative and innovative, with plenty of flexibility built in.

Summing It Up

When it comes to office design, it can either work to support your company culture, or work against the culture. Design that works against company culture hinders productivity, collaboration and more.

Take time to study your office culture and choose the right office design and design elements to support your employees. Choosing the right office design promotes your company’s culture, which helps everyone work together toward a common goal, which is the company’s success.

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