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The Link between Physical Workplace and Organizational Culture (and Why It’s Important)


Rebecca Gaynor

Date Published

Apr 24, 2018
4 minute read

Search for “culture in the workplace” books on, and you will receive over 7,000 results. Culture is a huge topic of interest for anyone passionate about the success of their organization, and at The Clearing, we’ve made culture our business. But why is culture important?

Research shows that organizations with “good” cultures outperform their competitors. The University of Warwick’s Department of Economics found that happy employees are 12 percent more productive than average employees, while unhappy employees are 10 percent less productive. What’s more, Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost U.S. businesses over $300 billion each year.

At The Clearing, we believe that culture…

  • Creates an organization’s identity–it’s how we treat each other, what we stand for, and, as an organization–the lens through which we look at the world around us.
  • Helps people gauge and reinforce desired behaviors and helps suppress or reject undesired behaviors.
  • Is, at the most basic level, the line between behaviors we tolerate and do not tolerate–reinforced by the perceivable actions of leadership and employee.

In our work, we have identified a critical link between culture and workplace design: If culture is the basis for the way people interact, then the physical space they interact in must be important, right?

If an organization’s culture is collaborative and interactive, a workplace design that calls for building many walls would be incongruent with the culture. Team members from that organization would find ways to collaborate and interact regardless of the physical barriers–but not without extra work and frustration. Likewise, if an organization’s culture is standoffish and toxic, throwing people into an open work environment will not build trust and collaboration. People in that organization will build barriers and find ways to avoid interaction.

That said, design features and tools in a physical space do drive behavior and impact how people feel about their organization–from availability of furniture, to type and style of furniture, to tools and technology available in a workspace. Even light, colors, and airflow or climate in the space can reinforce certain feelings and behaviors that impact culture. So, why not build into your workplace design the kind of physical space and tools that give you a leg up on reinforcing the culture you want?

Bottom line: Your physical space and tools, technologies, and policies are intrinsically linked to the culture you want to create or foster. Understand this, and you can begin to make culture shifts! To learn more about how workplace design can impact your organizational culture, please contact