Weekly Editorial

How Space, Design and Furniture Affect Corporate Culture

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Write Office • November 14, 2022

Trendway is part of the Fellowes Contract Interiors family of brands.  With a focus on delivering dependable, long-lasting contract furniture, accessories, and movable walls, Trendway is a quality option for workplace and government applications.  

Featured Brand: Trendway

For the last several years, your customers have struggled over how to get their employees safely and efficiently back to the office and you have done a masterful job helping them with that important task, though we all understand it is far from over.

Return to work is a huge issue, but I’m here to tell you there is a more important one that is related, but not quite the same: company culture.

Regardless of whether you work for a dealer, manufacturer, designer, you play a huge role in creating corporate culture and I would argue that company culture has a much larger effect on return to work than COVID itself.

When you ask workers why they are reluctant to go back to the office or would prefer to work from home, they give you a lot of reasons, but I’m yet to hear a single one of them say that they don’t want to return to the workplace because they don’t like the furniture.

It is all about the culture. The excuses they give for not wanting to return to the office might sound familiar: They don’t like the boss; their coworker talks too loudly on the phone; the guy from accounting steals food from the fridge; no one communicates outside their team; they don’t feel supported. The list goes on and on.

All of those excuses relate to corporate culture and have nothing to do with furniture. Yet I truly believe that space, design and furniture can greatly affect corporate culture. As a furniture dealer or manufacturer, you can’t change the culture that breeds the loud talker, but you do have solutions that can mitigate the noise. You can’t force people to communicate with each other, but you can create spaces that makes communication easier and fosters it.

Like a finger print, corporate culture is uniquely distinct to your customer’s business. Things like products, strategies, marketing and innovations can be replicated, but the only truly unique identifiers are the values and norms of the organization. It is critically important to the success and health of your customer’s company, its people and customers. And our industry is uniquely qualified to help create and nurture that culture.

From a sales perspective, leading with a conversation about company culture can be helpful. How does your space help or hurt your company’s culture? What areas of the office do workers gather in most and why? What is your policy about where employees can work?

As your customers start answering those questions, you can begin to create spaces that will address company culture issues.

In a recent Gensler report that looked at corporate culture, the firm identified how innovation and corporate culture connect. The framework the report discovered identifies six key conditions that drive innovation: authenticity, autonomy, curiosity, imagination, thrill and hope. It then combines the conditions with six key components that influence organizational culture: representations, structures, norms, regulators, resources, and workflows. “By understanding how organizational components enable or disable conditions for innovation, we can uncover whether innovation is being systemically supported. In other words, the framework reveals alignment or misalignment between ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’ — what a company says versus its everyday actions.”

That’s where the tough conversations with customers begin — when its view of its own corporate culture does not match with what it actually is. Lots of companies have false views of their own culture. It’s hard to accurately see your corporate culture when you are immersed in it.

Again, that’s where you come in. Take a moment right now to reach out to one of your customers. Pick one you haven’t talked to in a while. Ask them how their corporate culture survived the pandemic, work from home and the return to work. More importantly, let them know you are there to help. Because even though furniture can’t directly change corporate culture, it can go a long way to help.

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