I love watching the reactions of guests visiting our company headquarters for the first time - they arrive expecting a bland sea of gray cubicles and leave with big smiles, questions about accent wall colors and scribbled notes about associate-driven decor, collaborative workspaces and our Virtual Reality play room.  We have worked hard to have our office space align with our culture and, I think, it shows.

Whether you conduct business as a brick and mortar store or are online e-commerce business - the physical place that your associates work in is a great contributor to how they treat your customers. 

After many hours spent brainstorming, making corporate site visits and testing various office floor plans, desk configurations and community spaces - I have learned a LOT about the key building blocks of a productive work environment.  

Over the years, we have welcomed through our doors numerous professional groups, businesses and individuals that are curious to learn more about what makes our culture tick and what role a well-designed office plays into that.  So many folks are eager to visit, in fact, that we launched a monthly public office tour to consolidate the requests and formalize the experience of getting a deep dive into our company culture and history.

Think we're nuts?  Here are 4 reasons you should consider opening your own doors for public office tours:

1.     Build relationships and find new recruits

Just as a new relationship can be cemented over dinner, inviting potential and current business partners 'over to your place' provides a window into what it's really like doing business with you.  They'll rub elbows with your associates and gain a fresh perspective on what it's like being a part of your team.  We've seen, more than a few times, that a simple visit can open fresh dialogue between key players in our industry and community.

We also see a number of job candidate hopefuls attending our office tours, wanting to get a grasp on the culture and company history before stepping foot into the interview room.  The benefit goes both ways, giving our team insight into the truly interested candidates who take the time to connect with our company before that job offer is made.

An added benefit to conducting office tours are the unexpected job candidates; those visitors that come to learn about our company to support their own business interests and leave wanting to apply immediately.  When you are thoughtful about how you design your work space and treat your associates - and are open to sharing with the public - your office tours can quickly turn into a fresh source of highly engaged applicants.  

2.     Let your office be your storyteller

Part of the experience visiting our office is an exercise in living our company history.  Every meeting room, wall graphic and street sign suspended from the ceiling has historical significance to our brand.  To tour with us is to know us, a great tactic for not only educating visitors but also providing constant reminders to our staff about who we are as a company, where we came from and where we are collectively going.

One of our more interesting office design additions is our Customer Journey Hallway - a physical representation of the mostly intangible experiences our customers have shopping with our brand.  Through this hallway, we lead visitors on the customer journey from start (where they can view a successful pay-per-click ad or listen to a recent radio ad) to finish (reading a recent post-transactional email and un-boxing a product ordered from our site). 

This tour segment is great for training new hires on how we connect with customers, but also tells an interesting story about how we work as marketers and customer service professionals - and why a guest on a tour might want to be a part of that experience in some form or another.  

3.     Grow associate pride

Our associates appreciate the monthly office tour event as it provides them with an easy way to get friends and family to visit their unique workplace - especially for those eager to take advantage of our referral program (hey, whatever motivates them!).  There's much to be said about working for a business that welcomes the community and has so much to share with them.  We firmly believe that investing in a beautifully designed workplace plays a role in associate retention, so when given the chance to show off a fun and modern workplace - let's do it!

When our business was acquired in 2014, there was more than a little concern from our associates that some of the creative quirkiness in our office space would be lost in lieu of a larger more "corporate" feel.  Today we find our office a very popular destination for our parent company's executive team as they too have witnessed the impact it has had in combination with our culture.  In fact, when visiting our corporate headquarters we are starting to see more and more of OUR office elements in THEIR office.  Truly a testament to the power of associate-driven, creative office design.   

4.     Push for greatness

There have been times when planning floor expansions (as we did recently) that the visibility of our office design and the important role it plays within our organization has driven us to think outside of the box.  When you put your office experience front and center for visitors, it can drive some innovative behavior and planning of your own as you anticipate their arrival.  For instance, we wanted a more compelling way of sharing the future of our company's vision and project planning - so we hired a video game company to create an interactive game run on the XBOX to allow associates and visitors alike to have fun while learning about what lies ahead for our brands.

After realizing the importance of Virtual Reality in the future of online shopping, we installed a Virtual Reality room called 'The Oasis' to allow associates a space and technology to learn the basics and one day develop compelling tech that will make us money - and, bonus, it's a SUPER popular stop on the office tour.

Is it that we design our office just to impress guests?  Absolutely not!  But knowing the dual impact that office design decisions have on both office tour visitors and everyday visitors (our associates) keeps us creative and thinking big.

Published on: Oct 16, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.