Does Your Workplace Design Reflect Local Culture?


Steelcase’s “Defining the Code” research paper suggests that businesses have a lot to learn about what it takes to be truly global employers. Understanding workplace cultures in different countries may lead to subtly or even radically different ways of designing the work environment. Everything from the office layout to the office furniture may need to be different from one satellite location to the next.

Contrasting Workplace Cultures

In cultures where employees are most focused on being seen as part of a team, making sure all workstations outfitted with the same equipment might be best. That way, no one appears to be getting special treatment that might make them feel embarrassed. At the same time, this doesn’t mean these employees would feel comfortable in a hoteling or hot-desking environment. Even if all the desks are the same, a very “rules based” culture might mean people like to have an assigned space where they sit every day.

In contrast, in cultures where individual effort is pointed out and rewarded, having the ability to personalize the workstation could be motivating. Even something as simple as offering employees the chance to pick the color of the upholstery for their task chair might be a nice perk. You can expect to see workers vying for the best spots such as the “double wide” cubicle or the one by the window. These prime locales may even be used as bargaining chips when performance review time rolls around.

Some Values Don’t Change

However, there are some things that don’t change from one country to the next. Employees still need high quality, ergonomic office furniture and an environment that supports the work they do. These details sometimes differ based more on the type of work being done at a specific site rather than cultural preferences. It might pay to visit a few local offices as a fact-finding mission to see what employees expect before you make your final purchasing decisions.

Are there any universal standards you apply when purchasing office furniture for your employees regardless of location? Let us know in the comments.


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