How to enhance a company's culture through workspace design

October 24, 2012

To find true value in retrofitting a workspace, it must reflect the values of the company and employees. 


It all boils down to community. By definition, a community is a social unit that shares common values and ideas. When an organization brings its talent together, allows them flexibility and provides them shared spaces, a corporate community is formed—one that’s more productive and innovative, to boot.

A lot of large corporations are beginning to consolidate their most valuable asset—their people—not by downsizing or restructuring but by relocating buildings and locations that provide better access to transportation, connection to bike paths and cheaper parking. Often this means moving out of the downtown core to suburban areas that allow companies to bring a business team together in order to create better process and workflow in a place that is uniquely theirs.


Creating company culture
Part of the reason they make this kind of move is these companies recognize the value of providing comforts like daycare, fitness rooms and food services. What is interesting to see is how these shared spaces are becoming vital in strengthening their culture.

For example, several years ago WestJet moved into their new campus near the Calgary International Airport. They didn’t know at the time just how important the gathering spaces would become to the success of their transition. The move brought seven locations into a single campus at the end of a runway, meaning many employees were leaving behind certain amenities and conveniences they used to be able to get right across the street. To keep employees happy, WestJet needed to design a facility that could provide those conveniences. This was the biggest driver for creating a community around the already thriving WestJet culture, and the result was a resounding success.

Today, if you were to run into a Calgary WestJeter on the street, they will be the first to tell you that the campus has it all. It’s a great place to work thanks in large part to the community spaces that were included in the design. We worked closely with WestJet and partners Sunterra and Starbucks to create a cafeteria and gathering space that has become the heart of the campus. This gathering spot on the first floor of the six-story building is the causal meeting and networking spot where many WestJeters conduct business and exchange ideas. In fact, the Starbucks is one of the highest grossing Starbucks kiosks in all of Western Canada.

Design that reflects values
The interior design of the workspaces had to reflect this sense of “community” too. Everything from colour, lighting (natural and artificial), seating arrangements, traffic flow and acoustic characteristics contributes to developing a space that promotes community within a company.

The North American workplace is changing, and the buildings we work in must change with it. Renovating needs to be a carefully thought out process. It’s not just about picking the current trendy colour or trying to cram as many employees into a space as possible. To find true value in retrofitting a space, it must reflect the values of the company and employees. Only then will the renovation and the company reach their potential.

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