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Driving Your Desired Organizational Culture through Workplace Design


Rebecca Gaynor

Date Published

May 09, 2018
4 minute read

Interested in changing or influencing your organizational culture, but unsure of where to begin? You’re not alone. We often hear from leaders just like you who are not clear on how to get started, but there is a way you can begin taking small steps to positively transform your culture today.

Through our work at The Clearing, we’ve determined that culture is comprised of a collection of behaviors we tolerate and behaviors we do not tolerate. What’s more, behaviors can be largely driven by not just policies or rules, but by the physical spaces and tools around us. To that end, if you want an open, transparent, and collaborative culture in your organization, you need to provide a space, tools, and workplace policies that reinforce that.

We recently had a senior government client take her large organization to a more agile, collaborative, and transparent work environment, reinforced by an open floor plan. As a senior executive, she and her leadership team gave up their offices. She and her more than 100 staff now choose the space that best meets their needs to accomplish the tasks of the day. To allow for collaboration and support different work patterns and needs, they invested in more small conference rooms, collaboration spaces, some soft seating areas, “quiet areas” for heads-down work, and phone booths for private calls or 1:1 meetings where one individual is working from a remote location.

To make staff feel involved in the workplace design and to support staff’s assimilation into the new environment, we helped this client identify and communicate workplace guidelines and ground rules for working in a shared, open workplace. We also asked staff to contribute to the identity of the space by helping to name the conference rooms and select colors for finishings that tied back to their organizational mission and brand. Tailored signage reinforced the new space labels and guidelines.

The organization is now successfully working in the space and with the efficiencies gained in reducing their footprint, they’re already seeing a return on investment, including increased productivity and employee satisfaction.

It’s important to keep in mind that workplace design is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. If your goal is to create a culture of openness, transparency, and collaboration, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every leader needs to give up his or her office. However, you might consider what other design or policy choices you do want to make as a leadership team to show your investment in the culture that you desire.

At The Clearing, culture is our business. When our clients understand the link between culture and workplace, they are able to use space design as a platform for reinforcing their desired culture to help the organization perform at its best. Curious about how you can take steps towards reinforcing the culture you want with workplace design? Send your questions to