Four Barriers to Creating Your Desired Workplace Culture (and How to Overcome Them)

May 1, 2018
Blog, Workplace
By Rebecca Gaynor

“I want my organization to be more collaborative.”
“I want to reduce organizational silos and improve performance.”
“I want an innovative culture.”
“I want people to truly embody our organizational identity and culture in the work they do.”

Sound familiar? We hear statements like these a lot from our clients at The Clearing. Often, they don’t realize that physical workplace design or workplace policies can actually hinder their efforts in achieving their desired culture.

Here are 4 common barriers we’ve seen to creating a desired workplace culture:

● Lack of informal convening spaces: If there are no gathering places available in an office, for example–no places to sit in a kitchenette, no soft seating, or other destinations outside of workstations and offices–people will tend to eat meals at desks and in offices. In settings like this, fewer informal or social gatherings may occur–if at all–in the workplace.
● Physical barriers: If a space is designed with high walls that restrict line of sight, light, and airflow, it can actually be a barrier to collaboration and even impact employees’ moods and wellness.
Frustrating tools and technology: If tools or technology are not readily accessible and intuitive in a space, people won’t use them–and if there are no places with whiteboards or collaboration tools, people may not be well-equipped to innovate.
● Lack of identity: If your organizational identity is critically important to you, but you don’t have anything in your space design–e.g. colors, pictures, design features–that truly showcases your identity, what message does this send? If guests enter a space that is disorienting, with a lack of signage, reception, character, or features for wayfinding–how does that impact the guest or employee experience?

These barriers can be overcome with either small or larger investments, depending on your goals. Here are a few ways to flip those common challenges into opportunities:

● If you build it, they will come. If you want to boost collaboration and innovation, incorporate soft seating, collaboration spaces, and small group seating in kitchenettes to encourage relationship-building, cross-pollination, and “mind-share” discussions. An added bonus: these interactions can actually boost organizational performance!
● Let there be light. If you want an energized, “well” culture, bring down some cubicle walls and other physical barriers, and consider repurposing areas in the office that get great light for use beyond solely the “C-suite”.
● Make your technology work for you–not the other way around. Invest in simple, easy technologies and tools that promote knowledge management, information sharing, and collaboration. Nothing is more frustrating or inefficient than dropped video calls or slow technology resources.
● Showcase your identity for employees and customers. Bring your organization’s personality to the forefront through color, furniture selection and space design, artwork, and signage throughout your space. First impressions are everything, so think about what you want your lobby or reception area to say about your company to current and potential customers, partners, and recruits.

Our advice? Use an agile method for workplace changes. Start simple with a few things, test them out, capture feedback and lessons learned, and course correct. Repeat. Curious to learn how you can avoid workplace design barriers to your organizational culture? Please reach out to rebecca.gaynor@theclearing.com.

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