How Furniture Shapes Company Culture
Furniture & Culture:
How Your Office's Design can Affect Your Business
By Christian Roemer
Furniture in the office is an often overlooked but crucial component in establishing and maintaining a successful business culture. If you're a business owner or manager who is looking to improve employee morale and promote a certain type of environment in your office, consider starting with the furniture.
If you close your eyes and think of the type of space you'd like to work, you probably don't think of gray cubicles and beige walls. You probably envision something closer to Google or Facebook with innovative furniture, dynamic spaces, and warm amenities. You imagine a place you want to be.
Employee happiness is one of the primary goals of a positive business culture. Happy employees make the office better, and it affects everything from productivity to morale. That's why some of the most forward thinking companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple have invested significant sums to make their offices look amazing. They understand that if people want to be at the office, they'll work harder and smarter than people who dread being there.
While Google and Facebook are admirable companies and worthy of emulation, not every business has millions of disposable dollars to spend on designing a world-class office space. The good news is that you don't need hefty sums of cash to improve your office, and even some small-scale changes can make a world of difference.
Furnishing your business intelligently can create a self-sustaining atmosphere of creativity and innovation.
One of the fastest and most affordable ways to use furniture to improve your office's culture is upgrading the office chairs and desks to make employee them more ergonomic. That can mean outfitting your office in ergonomic chairs or adding things like keyboard trays to existing desks. Making workspaces more comfortable will instantly brighten your workers' dispositions and improve their productivity.
A larger, big-picture vision of your office will require more significant investments, but the payoffs can be immeasurable.
Google has done more than almost any other company to accommodate different work styles that support their goals. As a technology company, their business model depends on innovation and creativity. Casual meeting spaces and comfortable retreats promote impromptu brainstorming sessions while secluded spots allow self-reflection. They don't force their employees into one way of working, and they don't keep them chained to a desk for the whole day. They've created work areas with furniture and floor space that can support different modes of thought and working.
Furniture can influence your business's culture by driving certain behaviors that it aims to bolster. For example, we've written about collision spaces and how they can spur impromptu collaboration sessions without the baggage of formal team meetings. On the opposite end of the spectrum, quiet spaces can be the perfect respite for workers who need some self-reflection throughout the day to regain focus on their tasks. Different spaces with different furniture can support the myriad personalities of people who do assorted types of work.
Ultimately, furniture should reflect the company's ethos while supporting the tasks needing to be completed. Culture doesn't occur by chance. It's a carefully constructed aspect of business that can go to great lengths in determining its success. Toxic cultures can sink even the most behemoth of businesses, and they can build groundswell movements that change the face of the globe. Culture defines businesses for better or worse, and how the office space looks and functions can impact it in numerable ways. Employee satisfaction, health, happiness, and pride are all tied to how the office looks and functions.
While not every start-up can afford state-of-the-art office designs like those at Google, it would be a mistake to overlook the importance of furniture when building your brand and office.
Whether remodeling your existing office space or building a whole new company from scratch, consider how you want your business to operate and make sure that the space you inhabit nurtures that vision. If you want to make your office a dynamic, productive, and innovative space, promote that attitude with the furniture you put inside of it. You wouldn't climb Everest in shorts and a t-shirt. You wouldn't cross the Sahara without a water bottle. If you want to create an electrifying business, start by creating a comfortable and enjoyable space for your employees to work in. Spending 40+ hours per week in a stifling, monochromatic, sterile space isn't going to inspire them.
...if people want to be at the office, they'll work harder and smarter.
You'll be fighting an uphill battle if you try creating a lively and energetic office culture in a drab, poorly conceived space. A well-designed office can lift up your employees during difficult times and make the good times even better. Happy employees are essential to a successful workplace culture, and that attidue will ultimately determine whether your business is destined for El Dorado or the depths of hades. Furnishing your business intelligently can create a self-sustaining atmosphere of creativity and innovation, while neglecting it may stifle its trajectory, growth, and viability.