The Blue Kite Blog

How Your Office Space Influences Company Culture

By | October 04, 2016

It’s not uncommon for most conversations about company culture to revolve around physical office space.

Although we believe there’s more to company culture than your physical environment, it’s still an important component to a strong, thriving culture. In fact, we talk about it in our three pillars of a strong organization culture. It’s important to create a space that reflects your values and brand.

And yet, our recent company culture research found that only 53% of companies said their physical space – including design, decor and layout – reflects their brand. And for weak culture companies it was even lower at 24%.  

Clearly, this is an area where many organizations have work to do.

Workplace strategist, Stephanie Heiple says, “It is thoughtful to consider the physical real estate as a silent communicator for organizational culture.” If you want to create the right environment for a winning culture, you need to consider your physical space.

We couldn’t agree more. That’s why we wanted to show you an example of a company that’s doing a great job of using their office space to communicate and influence their culture.

How DNN Corp. Drives Culture Through Office Space

We recently connected with Dennis Shiao of DNN Corp. to talk about the culture they are creating through their physical space.

We were impressed to learn that DNN Corp. has made intentional efforts for their space to reflect their culture. They have actually mapped their physical space to their company’s core values. Talk about a great example of how your office space can reflect your company’s culture!

By integrating their core values into the space, DNN Corp. is allowing their physical space to communicate their culture. They are creating the right environment.

We wanted to learn from DNN Corp. and see how they did this. Dennis was kind enough to give us a glimpse into the DNN Corp. office space. Here’s our Q&A with Dennis.

Abby Buter: How would you describe your office space?

Dennis Schiao: We have a fairly conventional space. There are approximately 40 employees here at headquarters, in a mix of cubicles and offices. We’re in two adjacent suites, separated by a wall. Recently, we received approval from our landlord to place an opening in the wall, so that our two suites could be one. We took one of our offices, knocked down the wall at the back of it, then re-purposed that office into a lounge. So now the lounge serves as the entryway between the suites. It’s made a huge improvement in our feeling of togetherness. Literally, there’s no longer a wall separating our teams.

AB: What made DNN Corp decide to map your physical space to your core values?

DS: While we can talk about our core values at meetings and gatherings, we thought that the physical embodiment of those values could really bring things home for everyone. We also thought a lot about the important visitors we host in the office: customers, partners, vendors and job candidates. If they can grasp our core values by way of our physical space, they can quickly understand what we’re all about. Like a picture, physical space can be worth a thousand words.

How Space Influences Company Culture

The reception area at DNN Corp.

AB: How does your office space reflect your core values?

DS: We sell Content Management System (CMS) software and have a passion around content: creating it, managing it and consuming it. In the entryway that I mentioned earlier, we constructed an employee-curated “content wall.” On that wall, employees are invited to place pieces of “content” that they find interesting.

While “anything goes” (more or less), most employees decide to create photos and memes of other employees, either to give them a shout-out or to poke fun. I took a photo of a colleague using an Oculus Rift (i.e. with goggles on) and printed the photo with the caption “The Future of Content Management.”

How Space Influences Company Culture

The Content Wall at DNN Corp.

AB: Have you noticed an impact on your company since you’ve mapped your space to reflect your core values?

DS: Creating the entryway and the content wall has made a big difference. We feel more as one, and the content wall provides entertainment and helps us learn more about each other. The best thing about these initiatives is that they came from the trenches: employees banded together to make this happen, rather than it coming from the top. We had employees work on some of the interior decorating after business hours. I’m excited to see what we think up next.

How Space Influences Company Culture

The DNN Corp. conference room

How You Can Create a Culture-Driven Environment

The good news for all of us is that we have the opportunity to create a physical environment that reflects our culture too.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

    • Incorporate values. Evaluate your space through the lens of your organization’s core values and brainstorm how those values can be reflected in our physical space.
    • Decorate: You might not be able to knock down walls, but there are many other options to consider.You can paint walls, add lamps, add plants or allow employees to decorate their office space. Think about how you can change the decor to improve your space.
    • Involve employees. Dennis mentioned that many of these changes were employee-driven. Give your employees the permission to make changes and find ways to involve your team.

If DNN Corp. is any indication, it’s worth investing in your office space to create an environment that reflects your culture. We hope this example inspires you to invest in your company’s office space!

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