Workplace culture has always been viewed as a valuable asset to companies, particularly when it comes to talent attraction and business growth, but culture at work is radically different from business to business.
While companies might have different views on what type of things benefit a supportive working culture, the role of office design is frequently cited as a key element in helping establish a thriving office culture. In a 2016 Deloitte survey, 82% of respondents said they believe that culture offers a potential competitive advantage.
As a growing company, securing competitive advantages over your competitors is a big boost but if you’re still figuring out exactly what culture you want to foster within your business, it can be a challenge to know what to prioritise.
Culture isn’t a static entity but an iterative process that grows alongside your business. But in the same way your products are built, refined and improved, you’ll want to begin conceptualising ‘what makes your culture’ so that everything works as intended at scale.
But is it anything more than a splash of branding on the wall and a new company slogan? In a 2017 HBR article on business culture, Bryan Walker and Sarah A. Soule suggest:
“Culture is like the wind. It is invisible, yet its effect can be seen and felt. When it is blowing in your direction, it makes for smooth sailing. When it is blowing against you, everything is more difficult.”
When a company finds itself in a state of hypergrowth, that wind has the strength of a hurricane. Whether acquiring companies or talent, intense onboarding, expanding overseas or even going public, the exponential growth can break a business simply by dividing employees at a time when they need to pull together. Equally, culture can provide the speed and intensity for a company to mobilise and reach record growth.
Within hypergrowth companies, where autonomy and motivation are essential to making crucial business decisions fast, a strong culture ensures your people have a ‘north star’ to help guide them. A 2020 study by McKinsey suggests, 70% of employees said their work defines their feeling of life’s purpose. When employees understand your mission and vision, they have a greater sense of ownership and drive.
Your culture resonates across all aspects of your business because it represents the ways you do business. It’s concurrently your identity and your image, which defines how your talent and customers perceive you. Moreover, in today’s digital age, where news travels fast, and a scaling organisation’s culture is transparent (hello Glassdoor), culture can provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Skilled teams share strong bonds, and these groups are shaped by company culture. By connecting the synergies between hubs and departments to foster collaboration, employees no longer see themselves as operating in silos or “going it alone”. Through this, they’re able to share best practices and lean on each other for complex tasks. This can dramatically help with onboarding when it comes to rapid scaling.
After rapid expansion, Depop needed a new workplace that reflected their Mission Statement for a “sustainable… community-driven zeitgeist that’s shaping culture for the better.” They wanted their company values, “inclusive, diverse, progressive, sustainable and creative”, reiterated throughout the design phases and realised in the final delivery. Let’s look at some of these values in more detail:
Diversity: Hiring from a wide range of people adds value to companies, but how was this realised in the workplace? Clear wayfinding, defined space usages, retreat spaces, and acoustic room treatments were just a few examples hard-baked into the design iterations, reflecting Depop’s support for neurodiversity.
Inclusivity: Inclusion focuses on creating a work environment and culture that enables all employees to engage and thrive. To support this, we created a wide range of spaces that encourages flexible and autonomous working, creating their best work in areas that work for them.
Creative: As a business focused on results over process, a range of collaborative meeting zones – from kitchen areas, soundproofed meeting spaces to colourful breakout zones encourage movement away from single neighbourhoods and offer employees a change of scenery.
Progressive: As an online commerce company, innovative tech was crucial to office design. To inspire and foster this sense of culture, secure video conferencing, wireless presentation and quick access AV systems help ensure seamless meeting experiences.
Sustainable: As a resale marketplace, Depop’s mission is to make fast-fashion sustainable. They reflected this throughout the design, right down to their careful selection of iconic reclaimed furniture pieces.
When entering a workplace, elements of the company culture are often immediately apparent, just by viewing the physical environment. This is because the workplace both shapes and reflects culture. When considered on a surface level, these features become demonstrable:
● Building layout: Influences organisational hierarchies and how your people interact with each other.
● Furniture: Determines your people’s levels of comfort, work behaviours and how the company cares for its employees.
● Technology: determines your people’s ability to collaborate, respond to change.
These are just a few examples of how your office design influences how your people view your company and how it affects culture. And, as no company’s values, missions or culture are the same, neither should be the physical environment. Unfortunately, this often isn’t the case.
Explore how office design can be implemented as part of your workplace strategy and help support your growth ambitions by downloading our Guide to Scalability.download now