Corporate Culture and Office Design: What Does Your Company Stand For?

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

If there was a monument to your company’s culture what would it be?

What does your office’s physical space say about your company’s culture? Is it a testament to the values that your organization espouses? Every company, from the smallest upstart, to multinational behemoths, telegraphs what is truly important to them in the way they configure the spaces in which their workers eat, meet, analyze and socialize.

In the New York Times article, The Monuments of Tech, journalist Quentin Hardy outlines the lengths tech giants like Google and Facebook go to imbue their corporate culture throughout their facilities. It’s an interesting article, but creating workspaces that mirror a company’s gestalt (and, significantly, their public image) is nothing new.

Nearly 20 years ago, I worked for office furniture manufacturer Herman Miller, whose iconic Eames Lounge and Aeron office chair are permanent installations of the New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. During my time at Herman Miller, our architectural designers and sales people were constantly educating clients on how to create work spaces that fostered innovation and collaboration. Not surprisingly, our offices looked the part. Case in point: the company’s Design Yard is a showcase of the latest thinking in workspace design.

The physical spaces that office workers inhabit are far more than the sum of their square footage, miles of cabling and office furniture. This space offers companies the opportunity to demonstrate “This is who we are” for all who inhabit the space, whether it’s temporarily or every day.  Employees, vendors, customers—indeed, any who pass through the doors—are given a strong message as to what the company stands for. As the Times article points out, “When companies feel that they are changing the world as much as these tech enterprises do, they don’t need just offices. They need monuments.”

Lest you think I’m advocating for grandiose office environments like those showcased by Twitter, Google, and Facebook, I’m not. I realize not all companies (including my small business) can afford such luxurious surroundings. But you can still highlight the things you and your company stand for.

I learned a lot during my time at Herman Miller about company culture. Sure, there were really cool office digs, but you know what? I learned that “culture” is as much about the little things as it is about soaring ceilings and expensive artwork on the walls. Small touches like nice “lady stuff” in the women’s bathroom, sparkling clean floors, and clearly marked signage: those were the signs that said that people stood for quality, and that they cared.

So, if there was a monument to your company’s culture what would it be? I’d love to hear from you – leave me a comment (and, if your monument isn’t so flattering, feel free to adopt a fake name.)


Photo credit: by Jim Bowen from Hope Mills NC, US (Mount Rushmore) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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