Currently, you're most likely to hear the words "company culture" in terms of internal marketing and public relations, equaling it to the brand and overall experience. Company culture often gets overhauled by a few C-suite executives who decide what they want their company office experience to be. This leads to creating a long list of office design details that include fun things like slides and ping pong tables or human resource benefits such as company softball games and unlimited vacation hours. Things they think their employees want.

But company culture should be rooted in needs, not wants.

If you own a business with employees, you need to complete a fundamental check-in to make sure your company culture is meeting needs, which contribute to emotional well-being, productivity, and overall financial success.

The Five Elements of Company Culture

There are five elements to examine when analyzing your company's culture:

  • Equipment
  • Processes
  • Authority and Management
  • Communications
  • Experience

The experience element is the ultimate level of your company culture: the way an employee feels trust, motivation and engagement. You can't directly tell your employee how to experience his or her place within the company and their daily work life, but you can influence that experience greatly at the other four elements, particularly at the "equipment" level.

The equipment element of company culture deals with all physical objects in your company. Yes, this means: your office and its tools.

Your Office Design Is Your Culture's Foundation

Your office design literally sets the stage for employee wellness, productivity, daily interactions, overall morale, and guest perceptions. Are you forcing people to work in an outdated design?

Take a look around your corporate office space. Watch how people walk, how they move from one space to the next. Where do they stop in their workflow? Is there a physical bottleneck in spaces such as corridors, hallways, employee lounge areas, reception? Where does it crowd, and where does it stand empty? Empty square footage is underused square footage which means you're not getting your investment return on that corner of the office. You should think about how it could be better utilized to solve a frequent employee challenge, such as taking calls in a busy modular workspace, or having a quick co-worker brainstorming session.

Bad Office Design Leads to Problems

Having an outdated or poorly-designed office can often lead to higher stress levels, emotional rifts between departments, corporate resentment, employee bickering, mental health issues, anxiety, and even physical problems such as back aches and reduced eye vision.

Many company owners believe their office design should reflect their industry-for example, you'll often find law firms with traditional, almost stereotypical features: dark wood and detailed shelving, carpeted conference rooms for sound absorption, heavy wood desks to convey authority, degrees displayed instead of wall art, and more. But if the economy and the generations are flipping into new territory, shouldn't your office design chart a new course to best meet the needs of the people it serves and hosts every day?

How to Update Your Office Design For a Better Company Culture

Let's continue with the law firm example. Law firms need specific spaces for private investigators and researchers, consultants, clients, clients' families, interns, and multiple-year associates as well as boards and partners. All of these people have different tasks and therefore need collaborative, flexible, or designated spaces in a corporate space.

Update your office with these needs in mind. Pull up the old carpets. Encourage collaboration with softer meeting workspaces. Add water features and art. Change out the old solid antique desk for a sleek executive desk that still conveys authority. Encourage multiple smaller conference rooms for quick touch-base sessions. Designate quiet areas for employees to concentrate and research. You can even think about enlarging your printing/copying/faxing area to accommodate multiple personal assistants and secretaries at one time.

We all know that company culture is shifting. The question is: how long can you afford to operate without assessing and changing your company to become the culture it needs to be?