Work culture is the character and personality of your business. It’s what makes your organization unique and is the sum of its values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors, and attitudes. A healthy company culture is important for any business interested in both attracting and retaining talented people. It drives engagement, impacts happiness and satisfaction. And all of that affects performance. A strong, positive, clearly defined and well-communicated culture produces employees that enjoy coming to work, feel inspired and fulfilled by the work they do, and feel valued by their employer. Bad work culture produces employees who are unhappy at work, full of complaints, and don’t stick around for long.
Culture is frequently affected by the space around you. The traditional closed in office not only helps promote the idea that in the company hierarchy those who have the better office are more valued but also limits random collaboration. Many offices don’t have spaces that are designated for social interaction. The kitchen isn’t big enough for more than two people at a time, the water cooler is stuck in a corner somewhere where one person at a time can be there or the offices and cubicles provide physical walls that prevent human interaction. When people are resentful it’s easier for them to talk about others instead of to others. And therein lies the birth of bad office culture. This bitterness can be mitigated if there are spaces where coworkers can socialize, like a more central water cooler.
We’re architects, not magicians. We can lay out the space but it only goes so far – human interaction is important. We work tirelessly to design spaces that are open and have good flow. We endeavor to make each space we design functional and inviting. Open floor plans eliminate walls, which helps promote the idea of more equal and valued employees. They encourage more conversations, inspire more impromptu meetings, where new ideas are born and relationships are enhanced. They allow for fewer emails and phone calls among employees who work near each other.
In a cubicle, or an enclosed corner office you might have uninterrupted work/peace, but those interruptions are where new ideas are found and new perspectives gained. It forces people to go straight to their box and stay there without interacting with anyone for the duration of the work day. Those physical walls help build the emotional walls that prevent you from opening up to others and forming real bonds with those around you. If you want your team to be innovative, then create a physical environment that reflects that.
Happy employees are more productive employees and studies have shown that if you don’t have a work BFF you’re probably not very happy with your job. Happier teams work harder, are more productive, and work better together. Simply put, when employees are happy they care more. The team’s goals are more compelling. They feel invested in the company’s performance. Happy teams like what they do, so their work feels less like work and more like fun. In fact, unhappy employees cost American business over $300 billion each year. Unhappy employees are disengaged at work which leads to negative attitudes and low productivity, and ultimately affects your business’ bottom line.
The office culture here at H+W is pretty awesome, but it didn’t happen that way by chance. We work at it in a lot of different ways: bagels on Fridays, our open spaced office (where each of us can see others and are able to be seen which allows us to collaborate with everyone else), our Principal going out of his way to say good morning every morning, beer brewing, badminton tournaments, creative community projects, and careful additions to the team.
Having a great culture is unlikely to happen by accident, because bad cultures aren’t always a result of bad people. You have to actively manage it to stop people from falling into counterproductive behaviors. Life is too short to not enjoy where you work, aim for good work culture.