How to Revolutionize Your Company Culture through Your Work Space

November 23, 2016
How to Revolutionize Your Company Culture through Your Work Space

Office culture is a hot topic for small and midsize businesses (SMBs). As millennials become an increasingly large part of the work force, businesses need to evaluate their workspace to meet the needs of different age groups. Many business leaders have noticed the power of office space to set the tone for a company’s culture.

In October, TriNet hosted a panel discussion on office space and its effect on productivity. Attendees walked away with a greater understanding of how office space impacts company culture. Among the attendees were business leaders from Bay Area SMBs, entrepreneurs and HR experts. The panelists included:

  • Mihir Shah, CEO of Drobo, creators of data storage products for small to midsize businesses.
  • Bru Maia, people & culture director at technology education community, Galvanize.
  • Justin Bedecarre, co-founder and CEO of commercial real estate company, HelloOffice.
  • Gabe Chao, managing director & real estate advisor at commercial real estate firm, Newmark Cornish & Carey

What defines company culture?

As startups grow, they are faced with the challenge of retaining company culture. Whether you work for a technology startup or a life sciences company, the growing pains felt by business leaders are the same. The panelists discussed how they thought office space helped shape and retain the culture of the company. For various organizations, the needs can be different.

According to Bru, collaboration drives the culture – and the office design - at Galvanize: “When we hire people, we also see if they will be a good fit for our open and collaborative culture. It is important that they are comfortable working in an open space,” she says. “At Galvanize we win by creating a community and a culture of collaboration.”

Office space matters

The latest trend for creating open working space has really caught on, especially among technology startups. Many companies feel that it is easier to attract millennials if you have an open space and offer a culture of collaboration. The panelists agreed that open space allows for easier interaction, and makes it easier for people to work together and grow professionally.

However, how open space is best used really depends on the team and their work style. Engineers may need more stretches of time during their workday to focus on important tasks so an open work space may be too distracting for them. However, a marketing or sales organization may thrive in an open space. Ultimately, open communication and transparency will help you decide what works best for your team.

Customize space to your needs

It is important to understand your employees’ needs when you design your office space. Panelists agreed that if you create a culture that promotes communication and transparency, people will tell you which amenities are important to them in the work space. Having a ping pong table may not be as important to your workforce as other amenities. Pay attention to the feedback and modify your space accordingly.

For some employees, it is important to step outside for lunch, hang out with colleagues and contribute to the local economy. These people may be less inclined to appreciate catered lunches. Understanding your workforce and designing your space to fit their needs will create a more engaged and productive workforce.

Justin felt that it was really important for business owners to assess the space they would require to meet their current needs.

Understand Your Lease

Gabe, the real estate law expert on the panel, emphasized that it was important for startups and early stage companies to carefully consider the lease agreement. The lease could have an impact on the business’s exit strategy. Therefore, it is critical to consult with a real estate lawyer before you sign the lease agreement to avoid complications that can hurt your business in the long run.

Cool Features

When our panelists were asked if they could list the coolest office space features, they came up with a pretty fancy list.

For Justin, it was a chess board at one of his former companies. Mihir mentioned that Drobo, at one time, had a swimming pool in the middle of their workspace. Now Drobo has a ping pong table and Nerf gun wall where employees can hang out and recharge. One of Galvanize’s New York clients boasts a really fancy nursing room for mothers.

All panelists agreed that it is essentially the core company values that define the culture and not the office space alone.

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