Culture, one of those terms thrown around quite a lot recently. Especially when referring to the future of work and work space environments, but what does is really mean and how will it effect the work environment of the future? How has culture become the new form of community?
In February of this year, myself and one of my business partners Oliver launched a Co-Working space in the centre of our home city Lincoln. The space is aimed at creatives, freelancers and tech start-ups primarily. At the forefront of our thinking during all aspects of the build, from initial design through to fit out, the one thing we kept focused on was culture. How will the space be used? Where will interactions likely occur? How will the work environment come across? Will it feel like another corporate office disguised with reclaimed wood and edgy art work, or will it feel like a home from home? These questions forced us to build a space focused on collaboration and interaction rather than direct output performance.
In a recent conversation with a well known office fit out company we discussed a meeting they had held with a well known insurance company a couple of weeks previous. The insurance company had engaged with the fit out company to revamp their office’s and to focus on culture whilst moving away from the traditional corporate office vibes of the 90’s. You know the cubical scene from The Matrix? Like that but worse! The reason for this was retention. The insurance company was struggling to retain graduates between the ages of 18-25 for one reason alone, the lack of culture.
At the opposite end of the spectrum was another office I visited last month belonging to one of my funding partners. When you step out of the elevator into what can only be described as a millennials day dream you’re taken back by how the other side work. Cool seating areas and open plan desk clusters fill the space with funky off rooms designed around communication and interaction. In one room the walls are covered in white boards full of ideas, and in another a group of engineers play table tennis whilst brainstorming possible solutions. In the middle of all of this sits a kitchen bar with wine and beer on tap 24/7. I spent the whole day with the company at an event they hosted and witnessed something truly remarkable. At 5:00pm on a Friday afternoon, with the sun shining high in the sky outside, no one left the office. There was no 5 a’clock rush and masses of people flood the streets. My mind was well and truly blown. In fact it gets even more bizarre, when I left at around 6:30pm around 65% of the staff were still at their desks pint in hand! I asked one of the women who worked there why people still stayed and what she said really hit me.
“When people come into work they don’t feel like their just at another job. They feel a part of something, something bigger than themselves. They feel a sense of community in what they do. They socialise with their coworkers and don’t buy into the traditional 9-5 way of life”
This was culture and community at its finest.
I walked away inspired on how I would focus on putting culture and community first back at our Co-Working space. I’ve always found the ones who feel a part of something more than just themselves tend to be the ones who go the extra mile. Work takes up a large part of our daily lives so its key we try our best to create a collaborative and engaging culture others can feel inspired by.
For me, culture in the work environment is as key as the coffee shop culture you experience when you pop to get your Starbucks in the morning. That warm inviting feeling you get that sets you up for the day. Creating a space that fills your teams with excitement before they’ve even arrived, and continues to inspire and encourage throughout the day, is where I see more and more previously rather corporate companies gravitating towards. The rise of Co-Working spaces in the UK alone has proven that more and more millennials and now Gen-Z workers want to find a sense of fulfilment and want to work in an environment that provides a sense of meaning as well as a sense of community.
I got fairly deep towards the end of that last paragraph, but I truly believe that the companies today that are focusing on culture rather than the output of their work force will be the ones that will not only move with the times, but also retain the best talent available. They will be the ones everyone wants to work for, the ones that see the bigger picture. For me this is why culture is so important in the workspace.