A New Way to Work: When Your Office Space Reflects Your Core Values

Funky Office SpaceAs I left a recent presentation at one of my clients, I noticed the design of the hallway leading into the area. My comment was “wow.”

It stopped me in my tracks. The walls were adorned with a blow-up of their core values. The other side of the wall were positive thoughts from famous people. I called it a ‘Hallway of Positivity’.

With all the talk about culture in organisations today, it makes me proud when I see organisations go all out in trying to create this atmosphere. I’m sure there are some that will say something like, “yes, but do they live it?”

A visual focus on what your culture is about

Good question, but my take is that during the design process, they could have just agonized over the colour of paint and let that be it. But as I walk through their hallways, there are subtle signs throughout that hone in on the same message. That message is, “this is what we are about.”

Today your organization must use every opportunity to talk about what they are about. It is kind of like the soft sell in advertising — keep it front and center at all times.

As I thought more about this, I realized that this type of design enables and has the ability to stimulate human flourishing. Walking down a bland hallway, entranceway or walking down that same space with a stimulating colour and quotes creates the atmosphere.

If you have ever travelled to Hong Kong, you will realise that no space is wasted. Every available inch of outdoor space is used in some way [whether you agree or not]. But think about all the space within organisations, from the bland conference room to the beige walls in the hallway, that just screams normality. Then, take that same space and try to spice it up in a way that reinforces what you are about; because in more ways that you can imagine, your employees are your customers.

Designing for positivity

In US-based HR, we tend to think that the sun rises and sets on what we do and our environment. But, take it from someone who has travelled the world of HR; we are, in a lot of cases, just catching up.

In my travels, I have seen some of the most incredible workplaces ever. I have spent time with HR executives who have their CEO in the room. Yes, that is correct. At our HR meetings, lots of the time, the CEO will join the discussion.

I’ve found myself going into a discussion on engagement when someone mentions that we have 41 nationalities within our company. There is no one size fits all. What is important to one does not always translate. However one CEO mentioned that “everyone wants to be treated with respect and valued regardless of their nationality.”

I visited one workspace where the company had taken over a huge villa as the corporate office. From the moment you walked in you got the “wow” factor. It felt like a home and it created that soothing environment. I could just imagine what it would be like to work in that every day. From the entrance hall to the outdoor barbecue area, it felt relaxed and positive.

Core values can translate

The wall painting I mentioned earlier listed these core values: passion, integrity, empowerment and adapting. Those values are discussed at their HR meetings and decisions are filtered through that lens. This is the only way to get traction and maintain a level of “zen “throughout the office.

Stimulating workplaces are the next frontier in this ongoing quest to build the type of environment that stimulates and invigorates your workforce. In order to come up with innovative ideas, creativity is essential. Therefore, companies should focus on stimulating creativity in the workplace.

When I enter workspaces throughout the world, I look for what I call the “edge.” Do I feel “it” when I get off the elevator? As I glance around the waiting area, what is it telling me?

Think of entry spaces as the induction not only for new employees, but also customers, investors and potential clients. Is your space sending a message?

I worked for a company in my past which had the executive team spread throughout the building. The leadership team was all over; there was no leadership row. When the new CEO arrived, she immediately created an executive floor complete with mahogany walls, etc. The unwritten rule was that if you did not have business on the floor, do not venture there. It was the beginning of the end.

Is your office welcoming?

I arrived for a meeting at one company and the waiting area screamed “creativity”, but what took my breath away was a marquee that literally welcomed every visitor. That was a first, but throughout this space, from the conference room to the break room, there was a distinct feeling that this was not your normal office.

The days of a coffee machine and a refrigerator in a break room is wasted creative space. The lounge concept that a lot of companies are using creates a relaxed environment and a place of respite away from the hub-bub of doing business.

When people are less stressed and don’t feel pressured, creativity is stimulated, and great ideas are more likely to be born.

Good vibe or blank message?

So walk your halls, take a look around from the waiting area to the conference room and think about what you are seeing. Is it a good vibe or it is sending a blank message?

If it is just a bland and run of the mill entryway and workspace, you will not be the only one that notices it, everybody else already has.

Written by , Chief Executive Officer at Great Place to Work

Ron Thomas is The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Great Place to Work based in Dubai. He is a member of the senior faculty of the Human Capital Institute. He is certified by the institute as a Master Human Capital Strategist (MHCS) and Strategic Workforce Planner (SWP) and Global Human Capital Strategist (GHCS). He has held senior level roles at IBM, Martha Stewart Living and Buck Consultants (A Xerox Company Board memberships include: Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly Executive Online Panel and the Human Capital Institute Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy. He received the "Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress and the "50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia in Mumbai February 2014

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