Should culture affect the design of your office space?


Today, your work colleagues extend across many countries, provinces and cultures. Globalisation has taken over and work happens 24 hours a day across various time zones.  Work never stops or shuts down. Somewhere, someone is always working.


Companies are faced with the question about if they should incorporate culture into the design of your office space:

  • Should offices have a worldwide standard?
  • Should they vary slightly, depending on the country they are based in, to suit local needs and requirements?

Design each of your offices according to where these are

Many international companies merely replicate their offices worldwide and don’t take culture into account.  This, in my opinion, is short sighted as employees’ behaviour at work is based on the culture of the country they are in:

  • Based on hierarchy and how people feel about their space affects, for example, how people cope when they move to open place workstations. Open plan is great for some countries and cultures, but certainly not for everyone.
  • Often, products, which are not suitable for the local market, are specified. The result is that these need to be adapted or re-specified to tie in locally.
  • The way in which we perceive and use space is a vital and culturally variable dimension.  Examples of differences are air, noise, lighting and the way we build offices.

Carry a theme throughout your company’s offices worldwide

This is so that a global thread is carried throughout and whether clients walk into the Johannesburg or the New York office they feel in touch with the brand.

How do you build a global corporate culture?

Understanding the local culture and drawing strengths from each location helps organisations build a corporate culture which works around the world. Culture greatly affects how people communicate with one another, how private they are and how they collaborate.

It is really important for employees to trust their environments and the companies they work for. The only way this trust will be acquired is for their cultural needs to feel respected.

In today’s interconnected economy, you need extensive knowledge of the markets in which businesses operate. Understanding how cultural issues translate into the workspace helps organisations to leverage the physical environment in their efforts towards global integration.
Workplaces that can balance local and corporate culture can expedite and facilitate the process of global integration.

by Linda Trim

This article first appeared on HR Pulse.

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