Creating a cultural shift: how office furniture can support company culture

Businesses are increasingly recognising the important role company culture plays in attracting and retaining the best talent around. As well as having the potential to influence employees’ commitment towards an organisation, impacting their overall wellbeing, more businesses are starting to promote their own distinctive culture as part of the recruitment process.

By rethinking the layout and design of the office, businesses can make beneficial changes to corporate culture, helping them to secure a skilled and happy workforce for years to come.

Corporate culture is made up of the beliefs and practices a single company shares, including its attitudes, approaches, ethics and goals. While defining what sets a business apart from its competitors is often difficult, a unique culture is the foundation of any workplace and is crucial for standing out from competitors in the marketplace. A positive corporate culture has shared beliefs that align with the mission of the organisation and can have significant effects on employee attraction and retention.

Research by the University of Warwick in 2015 shows that employees are happier and more productive at work if they feel valued and respected by their organisation. The survey revealed that happy workers can be up to 12 per cent more productive, and unhappy workers can be up to 10 per cent less productive, making a positive corporate culture all the more important.

A key element of creating a positive corporate culture is taking into account the working preferences and behaviours of individual employees. When rethinking office design, offering a variety of distinct ‘zones’ in the workplace, in addition to open plan areas can allow employees to work in an environment that supports their particular working style.

Visibility within the workplace can help to create shared experiences, which is also crucial for a strong corporate culture. This can be achieved through open spaces such as communal cafes, atriums and work tables. In businesses where teamwork and collaboration are a priority, such environments also facilitate networking and group discussions as well as encouraging the development of professional relationships. Modular furniture such as seat clusters, furniture with folding or height-adjustable configurations and multi-purpose workstations can also support this goal, creating a flexible and agile work environment. In addition, placing project boards in places where everyone can view them encourages employees to learn from one another’s ideas.

Whilst visibility is important, marking out set areas within the workplace can help employees to identify as members of a specific team. Providing group desks by department and using different colours of furniture for different teams can bring about a sense of inclusion. Furthermore, using open shelving or low screens can delineate teams without making them feel isolated from the rest of the company.

Domestication is also becoming a common workplace design trend, with many companies increasingly looking to make the office feel like a second home for their employees. If employers focus on creativity and comfort during the design process, this can help to increase the productivity and satisfaction of workers within the office environment, improving corporate culture. This can be achieved by introducing elements such as soft furnishings, complementary colours and real wood to create a warm and cosy office setting. Furthermore, thanks to portable technology such as laptops, mobile phones and tablets, employees also have the freedom to unplug and work just about anywhere they wish to. Providing charging points in different locations around the workplace allows employees to charge electronic devices from any location, imitating the home environment.

However, when redesigning the workplace, it is imperative that companies consider whether new design elements work alongside the old. Rather than blindly following the latest trends in office design, it is important to consider whether new elements truly reflect the company’s overall corporate culture. For example, introducing homely pastel shades into an ultra-modern office could result in a clash of aesthetics, creating a sense of discord amongst employees and visitors.

The corporate culture of a company can play a crucial role in its success when it comes to growing the workforce and so it is worth businesses considering any changes that can be made to reinforce this. During the redesigning process, considering a mixture of open plan and distinct zones and considering the domestication trend within the workplace can not only improve the productivity and general wellbeing of employees, but strengthen a company’s distinct culture within the marketplace.

Greg Stewart, head of furniture at Office Depot


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