How Does Office Design Affect Company Culture?

Every company has a culture. The question is, what sort of culture does your company have, and how is your office design affecting it? Your office design can either help you foster a positive environment that makes sense for your company, or can become an impediment to your continued growth. Your company culture has a profound effect on your employees and your company’s success.

Employees care deeply about the culture of a company they work for. According to Glassdoor’s 2019 Mission & Culture Survey, more than 77% of adults in the U.S., UK, France and Germany said they would consider a company’s culture before they applied to work there. The same survey found more than half of people prioritize company culture over their salary when determining their overall job satisfaction.

The Link Between Company Culture and Office Design

So, what is company culture, anyway? The concept can be difficult to define, but one tangible way it comes through is your office design. The connection between company culture and office design goes two ways: Culture should affect design, and vice versa.

First, let’s consider why your culture should influence your office design. Think about your home. You’ve probably chosen furniture and decor that meet your practical needs and reflect your style. When someone walks into your living space, they can learn a lot about your personality. An office should be the same way. When a client, business partner or potential hire walks through the entrance to your office building, they should get a positive and accurate first impression of your company’s unique “personality.”

Not only does your office design serve as a reflection of your culture, but it can also play an active role in shaping it. For instance, a Harvard Business Review study revealed that two Fortune 500 companies that switched from cubicles to open office designs experienced a 70% drop in face-to-face interactions. A change in their office design was enough to alter the way employees connected.

You may not see such a drastic effect when you switch out your reception desk or break room chairs, but every aspect of your workplace design contributes to the overall feel and flow of the space, which can impact your culture. When your office design matches the values you want to foster, it can help reinforce that, but when your office design doesn’t align with your culture, it can pull your company in the wrong direction.

When we’re talking about office design, we need to take two primary aspects into account: function and style. Let’s look at both of these features of your office design and how they relate to your company culture.


The right design for your company should allow you to get the job done in a way that’s comfortable and practical. Because every company has a different structure, not all businesses should have the same office layout and furniture. For example, some companies, the most functional design will encourage collaboration, while others may offer more privacy for individual efforts. Cultures that prioritize wellness may want standing desks, stability balls or other features you might not find in a more traditional office.


Design shouldn’t be purely practical. The aesthetic of your design can also reflect your business and can either inspire or bore your employees. There is a significant difference between an office full of sleek, modern furniture with an abstract art mural on the wall and one filled with dark wood furniture and traditional decor. Neither is objectively better. The best design style is one that fits the spirit of your company.

Common Types of Company Cultures

To optimize your office design for organizational culture, you need to define what yours is. A helpful way to identify what type of culture your company has is to use the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI), a framework developed by two researchers from the University of Michigan. The OCAI describes four types of organizational cultures. By considering each, you may find one description fits your company better than the others. Let’s take a look at the four kinds of company cultures.

1. Adhocracy Culture

This culture earned the nickname Create Culture. The word “adhocracy” comes from the Latin term “ad hoc,” which relates to the way adhocracies are all about approaching each task as a distinct issue with a unique solution. This type of company culture is dynamic and all about tackling new challenges in innovative ways. Create Culture companies reward entrepreneurship, risk-taking and thinking outside the box. The leaders in these companies tend to be creative thinkers and encourage their employees to be the same.

2. Clan Culture

If you often describe your staff as a family, your company may have a Clan Culture, also known as a Collaborate Culture. These companies tend to employ people who get along well and share common values. They foster a robust sense of loyalty and connection among employees who have all invested in the same mission. Clan Culture businesses are very people-oriented and generally value community, or teamwork, over individualism.

3. Hierarchy Culture

Hierarchy, also called Control Culture, may sound negative, but it refers to the way a hierarchy has unmistakable chains of command and procedures in place to help tasks get done in an organized manner. In some organizations, this emphasis on structure can be helpful. For one, it minimizes risk and can produce reliable results. In these companies, leaders act as overseers to ensure employees follow the proper procedures.

4. Market Culture

Some people also call Market Culture Compete Culture because these companies foster a competitive spirit that can drive innovation and impressive results. These companies seek to be competitive in the market and foster competition among their employees. Co-workers may still be friendly and even collaborate on teams, but each worker strives to leave their mark as an individual and help the company advance. These companies are all about growing to capture more business and market share and to increase profits.

How to Choose the Right Furniture and Design for Your Company Culture

The right office design can help support any of the company culture types we described above. Let’s consider what this design might look like for each.

Designing for Adhocracy Culture

Because Adhocracy Culture is all about creativity, you need your office space to feel fun and inspiring. To accommodate the agility of these companies, it makes sense to have a flexible workspace that includes both individual workstations and areas designated for collaboration. You may even want to add fun features that may seem out of place in the average workplace, like hammocks, ping-pong tables or slides. These amenities may be able to help employees refresh their minds or use their imaginations so they can keep innovating.

Designing for Clan Culture

Since a Clan Culture especially values collaboration, this should impact your workplace design. Some people may assume a collaborative culture should equate to an open floor plan. In many cases, though, the most functional design will include shared spaces for cooperation along with cubicles for more focused independent work, though these cubicles may have lower walls. Remember, the results of the Harvard Business Review study found that getting rid of cubicles altogether adversely affected face-to-face interactions among employees.

Designing for Hierarchy Culture

If your company has a hierarchical structure, it makes sense to have a structured layout, rather than one that feels more fluid. You should make sure employees have individual workstations where they can focus on tasks. Your conference room and break area may be the only places designed for collaboration. In these companies, it makes sense to have designated areas for particular tasks or groups. Hierarchy Cultures may also want to incorporate more traditional office furniture and decor into their design.

Designing for Market Culture

In a Market Culture, you want to celebrate competition and individualism through your design. That means providing employees with enough privacy for focused, independent work. Because these companies tend to be so driven, it makes sense to design your office as efficiently as possible. It may translate to a more industrial or utilitarian design style in terms of decor, but it doesn’t have to. A Market Culture company may still have traditional values or other aspects of their brand that make a more comfortable or homey feel appropriate.

Other Aspects of Company Culture to Consider

The common types of company culture can provide a great starting point for identifying what your company culture looks like, but other factors can also influence your unique company culture.

For instance, some startups and young companies don’t have a long history to build on, so they may embrace current design trends that give their company a distinctly modern feel. On the other hand, companies that have been in business for several decades may want to emphasize how well-established they are with more traditional design.

Younger companies may also be trying to figure out how to create company culture through office design, since they haven’t defined their values yet. In these cases, you may want to display aspects of your branding — like your brand promise or mission statement — on a bold mural, so new employees learn what your company is all about.

Anything that is part of your brand’s identity, whether you’re a brand-new company or one that’s been in the marketplace for a while, can play into your workplace design. For example, a corporate office for a clothing retailer should find ways to celebrate fashion in their office. If your company develops software for the construction industry, you may want to make your directional signage look like construction site signage. Whatever your company does, the secret is to keep your company’s mission and unique identity central in your design.

How to Improve Company Culture Through Office Design

As we’ve seen, there’s an integral link between your office space and culture, and that means by improving your office design, you can elevate your company culture. Here are a few tips for doing that.

1. Rethink Your Layout

The layout is a major aspect of your office design. You may be used to your existing configuration, but is it working well for your staff? You can find out by sending out a survey or asking for input in an all-hands meeting. If your current layout isn’t helping employees’ workflow, it’s time to try something new and more efficient.

2. Upgrade Your Office Furniture

The link between furniture and office culture may be stronger than you think. If your furniture is outdated or doesn’t match your brand, it’s time for an upgrade. Consider replacing that tired conference table or those cubicles that are showing years of wear. New office furniture can breathe new life into your workplace and can make your employees feel more excited to come into work.

3. Incorporate Your Branding

You can also enhance your company culture by incorporating more aspects of your branding into your design. For instance, why not liven up the space with cubicles that feature your signature colors? You can also choose a feature wall to tell the story of your company or to commemorate notable achievements. Celebrating your brand can encourage your employees to rally around it.

4. Add More Art

Art in the workplace comes with a long list of positive effects for employees, including reduced stress, easier wayfinding, more creativity and restored energy. Art can come in the form of murals, wall hangings, posters, sculptures, colorful wallpaper or anything else that adds visual interest to your environment.

5. Prioritize Wellness

If you want health and wellness to become more central parts of your company culture, it makes sense to design your office to promote a healthy lifestyle. That could look like installing special furniture like standing desks, adding live plants around the office or letting in more natural light.

How Arnold’s Office Furniture Can Help

At Arnold’s Office Furniture, we understand the relationship between company culture and office furniture, and we can help you create a work environment that reinforces and even elevates your values. Our design team can help you determine the best layout and furnishings for your office. We sell a variety of furniture types and configurations to outfit any workplace. Sunline Cubicles offer a flexible way to set up your workstations and even incorporate your customized colors.

The right office design can allow your employees to work in an environment that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. When you tailor your office design to your company culture, you can fully capitalize on that culture and see your company thrive. Contact us today to learn more about how Arnold’s can help you upgrade your office space.

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