Perhaps Hamlet said it best, “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” While the quote may be centuries old and considered cliché by some, I am forever finding new applications for its meaning.
In a recent article in Forbes, contributing author Chris Cancialosi makes the case for utilizing workplace design as part of a holistic approach to driving desired behavior; when it comes to the workplace, you can’t just add perks and benefits and expect them to do the heavy lifting. “Cool” features such as beer and foosball tables only go so far if they’re not part of a larger picture of creating a positive and effective culture.
This concept is one that our workplace strategy practice believes in wholeheartedly. The fun stuff is icing on the cake, but it’s not the substance of a company. Successful workplace strategy is one that enhances or helps a company discover who they are and how to align the physical space accordingly. People often reference Google as the type of office environment they want to emulate, which isn’t surprising considering images and profiles of their office are prominently featured in so many publications. But the danger is in attempting to replicate the Google office without looking at their whole picture—their office is an important part of who they are, but it’s only a part. Not everyone is Google (or should be!), and trying to be them is actually a disservice to your own brand and values.
I often flip through magazines and see pictures of haircuts I’d love to copy, but that I know just don’t suit my face shape. Unfortunately, I haven’t always realized this before an ill-fated visit to the salon, and I learned the hard way that what works on a celebrity is sometimes best left to those who grace the glossy pages. However, that’s not to say that the cut can’t be modified to work for me, and finding what that modification is and embracing the customization process is what will make it a successful look. Similarly, it’s crucial to know who you are as a company and make your environment reflective of your values and your industry—that knowledge can help you customize other environments and make them work for you.
At Business Interiors by Staples, we often refer to the “Dilbert to Google” spectrum of design. Sometimes companies think it’s either one or the other—the super boring cubical farm or the ultra-modern, nap-pod speckled offices. But there’s a whole range of design in between, and that’s the area we encourage customers to explore. It’s in this space that they can often find themselves and be authentic to whom they are and even push the envelope in their own way. Finding your own place in the workplace design spectrum gives a customer room to explore, ways to experiment and opportunities to define new trends. By avoiding the trappings inherent in imitating another company, organizations can define themselves and integrate different elements that have inspired them while defining their own elements at the same time. This is how unique spaces, cultures and companies are created— by exploring and redefining what has been considered to be the gold standard of office design.