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Why Everyone at the Office Should Care About Workplace Culture

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Jul 03 2019

According to a survey, the average person spends 13 years and 2 months—that’s 4,821 days—of his or her life at work. For comparison, the survey says we spend 1,583 days eating and 1,146 days on vacation. The only place we spend more time than the office? Our beds (12,045 days, or 13-plus years—thank goodness).

The office is an important place, and it’s one we believe should be designed with care. Culture matters—that means everything from the physical space to the values a company shares with new hires on their very first day.

Part of workplace culture is fun watercooler talk and good snacks, but it’s much more than that too. Solid culture lays the groundwork for the lightbulb moments that happen when people feel truly comfortable at work.

Good news: You don’t have to be an office manager to concern yourself with company culture. If you’re interested in building a positive, supportive office experience, check out the advice below from the Octopus archives.

1. When you’re curious about the folks that design the place where you work

How does a company agree on its values? What do truly authentic rituals look like? And how does that translate to business value? Follow one of IDEO New York’s organizational designers through a day to see what org design looks like in practice. (For more on what org designers do, read another piece from Mollie and her colleague, Mat Chow.)

READ: What Org Design Actually Looks Like

2. When you’re trying to convince your colleagues or your boss that culture matters

IDEO Chicago’s Annette Ferrera acknowledges that in some conversations, “culture” can mean “cool perks.” But culture is so much more than that: “It’s about creating an environment that makes it possible for people to work together to come up with innovative products and ideas—the same products and ideas that drive revenue.” Annette’s tips are both a blueprint for enacting your own cultural change and proof that a solid company culture can boost the bottom line.

READ: Why Workplace Culture Matters (And How to Build a Good One)

3. When you’re not quite ready to tackle that big project, but you want to make a small change

Designer, author, and IDEO alum Ingrid Fetell Lee runs Aesthetics of Joy, a blog about discovering joy in everyday life. If you’re not ready to tackle culture at an organizational level, use these bite-sized tips—like adding a plant to your desk—to create more joyful moments throughout the workplace.

READ: 6 Ways to Hack Your Workspace and Find More Joy at Work

4. When you’re not sure how you’re “supposed to feel” at the office

American work culture tells us we shouldn’t feel, fail, or fuss in our place of business, but org designer Mollie West Duffy doesn’t agree—in fact, there’s evidence that a little emotion at work can actually help us connect with our colleagues and feel more confident in our work. Learn more about “emotional culture” (and the book Mollie co-wrote on the subject) in this Q&A.

READ: Turns Out Emotions Do Belong in the Workplace—Here’s Why

  • Jayme Brown

    Digital Marketing Specialist, IDEO San Francisco
    Jayme is a writer and native New Yorker on a quest to find California’s best bagel. She loves people, in all their creative, complex, confusing glory, and San Francisco’s morning fog.
  • Katherine Choi

    Graphic Design Intern, IDEO San Francisco
    As a designer and visual storyteller, Katherine crafts meaningful stories and experiences with a humanistic voice. Her curiosity in the creative process helps her to explore new outlets by pushing the boundaries of storytelling.
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