The Importance of Space for Culture
The concept of an organization investing in a creative physical space for employees or for a solopreneur to want to work in a creative place seems like simple common sense. There are multitudes of research such as Steelcase's Employee Engagement Survey and Gensler's workplace research that definitely demonstrate the importance of a work environment to employee engagement. However, its not as simple as adding a few cool-looking couches, maybe a ping pong table or board game room and fitting out an X-box lounge. So what should you be thinking about?
- Ask and Listen – Many employers think they know what their employees want. Here is a wild concept – just ask them! Find out what the priorities are – is it more important to have ample parking or access to public transportation? A larger break or lounge area or a bigger conference room? Open space or more enclosed, focused work spaces such as cubicles or offices. I also recommend being as transparent as possible on your budget. Obviously, you cant make everyone happy, but by including as many people as possible in the decisions and most important – explaining the why behind your decisions, you’ll get more buy-in.
- Look to avoid long-term agreements – It may be more costly to sign a 1 year or 3 year or even month-to-month agreement, but locking yourself into a 7 year lease can be fatal. Your business – and the marketplace – can change rapidly and even if you are the best strategic planner on the planet, you can’t possibly predict what may happen in the area you are in in 7-10 years. While it may cause you to have slightly higher rent payments, the flexibility payoff is far greater.
- Reflect your culture – Don’t be something you’re not or as Shakespeare said, “To thine oneself be true”. Hopefully this comes across in collecting feedback from your team, but your space needs to reflect your culture – not necessarily what’s perceived as good culture. For example, if your culture is more indicative of the need for offices and private conversations, don’t force the team into an open space concept. Or if your team or business model is more of a “professional” nature, consider investing in subsidizing or locating near services such as dry cleaning, a gym, or concierge instead of an investment of a ping pong table or elaborate gaming or recreational equipment
The space in which you work needs to be a reflection of your culture and not an aspiration of what you think your organization is. Shared and coworking spaces can be great alternatives to all businesses and “solopreneurs” who are their own business. These workspaces are significantly less costly than renting office space (and avoid the long-term commitment of a lease), and provide a more professional atmosphere to meet clients, facilitate internal meetings, and provide your team a creative environment in which to work.