The value of a strong corporate culture is well-documented – it drives productivity, engagement, and satisfaction among employees – and all of that translates to better business metrics. Exploring the role of design in reinforcing, promoting, and even changing workplace culture is more complex, but no less compelling.
In the following post, Clark Nexsen’s Susan Drew discusses central themes in the connection between workplace design and corporate culture with the Mythics, Inc. office upfit as a case study:
You know when you walk into an office with great culture. The atmosphere has a tangible quality – it could be the way the employees carry themselves, or the way they’re interacting with each other – but it coalesces into the distinct understanding that these people are engaged in a shared purpose. That’s a powerful thing.
As companies look for ways to strengthen their culture and increase employee engagement, workplace design takes on new importance. A discussion of the existing culture, employee preferences, and corporate goals should be a foundational element in the design process for work environments. This conversation will inform many future choices – from the layout to the types of spaces to finish selections. Through these choices, companies can effectively utilize workplace design strategies to reinforce a strong culture, bolster employee morale, or potentially transform the culture and work style of their organization.
Design Driven by Mission and Values
An organization’s mission and values have tremendous power in delivering a message to employees, clients, and visitors. Using these elements to drive design goes further than presenting them graphically – it means integrating that visual and following through with the creation of spaces that reflect the words.
In the new Mythics Corporate Headquarters, their core values of Excellence, Respect, Empathy, and Fun were integral in informing the design. From its location in Virginia Beach’s bustling Town Center, to its undeniably “Fun” break spaces such as a golf simulator and ping pong table, the office concept centers on leadership’s vision for a vibrant space that fosters exceptional work and meaningful interpersonal relationships.
Excellence and a commitment to innovative thinking is demonstrated through the daily behaviors of Mythics’ leadership as well as the design of the workplace. An Innovation Lab offers a transparent, welcoming space for employees to explore ideas, while the conference rooms are named for and stocked with books by some of history’s great thinkers – Albert Einstein, Susan B. Anthony, and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others.
Aesthetics Align with Industry
Aligning the workplace aesthetic with industry communicates its purpose to current and prospective employees. In a job market frequently described as a “war for talent,” differentiating your organization with an appealing office interior that reflects your brand can establish an important competitive advantage.
For Mythics’ leadership, creating a clean, modern environment was a priority. The design utilizes light colors and extensive interior glazing to bring daylight into the building interior. The sleek furniture and color choices reflect the office’s sense of place and present a cutting-edge, successful technology company.
Prioritizing Employee Comfort and Wellbeing
Employee wellbeing is an enormous topic; one section of one blog barely scratches the surface, but the key here is to create a work environment where employees will be comfortable physically and mentally. Discussions around this topic touch on everything from daylighting, to fitness centers, to work/life balance, but they all relate back to the idea that healthy, happy employees are more productive and loyal.
It’s in these spaces that Mythics’ commitment to Respect and Empathy becomes so evident. The office integrates a “Zen Room” for relaxation and rejuvenation; a parenting room for nursing mothers (or any employee needing respite); and ergonomic furnishings as well as the wildly popular sit-stand desks. From game spaces to mental health, this office treats its employees holistically in meeting their needs for a work environment that is both inspiring and supportive.
Pay Attention to Details
Details matter. Whether it’s adding an inch or two to a workspace for ease of movement, or including a warm blanket in the parenting room, being detail-oriented benefits the employee experience. Mythics’ space features that comfy blanket in the parenting room, elevating its status as a private retreat. Other finishes in the room were selected specifically for cleanliness – another important detail.
In their kitchens, numerous outlets are available. During the design process, they revealed that they host frequent potlucks and everyone needs to plug in a crockpot. Culturally, these events are significant and engaging – facilitating that experience through design is key. You can bet they would notice if this detail had gone overlooked. Paying attention to the small implications of design decisions is just as critical as the big ones.
Offer Choices – Plenty of Them
The power of choice – everybody wants it. We all have different preferences for how and where we work, and those preferences may change depending on the type of work we’re doing. The evolution of the open office and the shrinking size of personal workspaces has driven the creation of a wider variety of meeting spaces and seating options, providing areas for employees to flex into.
At Mythics, nooks and crannies for informal meetings or impromptu conversation are scattered throughout the office. One such example is near an employee entrance featuring a “wall of service” display that highlights recent community service efforts. In addition to personal workspace, conference rooms, and their Innovation Lab, this variety is critical in enabling their employees to choose where they’ll work best on any given task.
Workplace design that leverages culture – or a company’s cultural goals – as a driver will inevitably result in a space that works better for its inhabitants. Gigi Decker, Mythics’ Director of Administration and Facilities, summed this up succinctly, “It was important to us to highlight what makes us unique,” she said, “This space reinforces how we see ourselves.”
About Mythics, Inc.
Mythics is an award-winning Oracle systems integrator, consulting firm, managed services provider and Platinum level member of Oracle PartnerNetwork representing Oracle product lines across cloud, software, support, hardware, engineered systems and appliances. Mythics delivers technology solutions serving the Federal Government, State and Local Governments, Commercial, Higher Education and Research, Utilities and Healthcare sectors and is a trusted partner to organizations worldwide.
About the Author
Susan Drew, CID, IIDA, LEED AP BD+C, is a principal with Clark Nexsen and the leader of our Interiors Studio. With more than 25 years of design experience, she has specialized expertise in the design of workplace interiors. To speak with Susan or learn more about our interiors practice, please call 757.455.5800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.