Culture in the workplace: What is it and why does everyone talk about it?

In business, we always hear talk of “culture.” 

We’ll hear people tout the “culture” in their office, and we’ll also hear disgruntled employees negatively discuss the “culture” in their workplaces. But, what exactly is “culture” and why is it so important in a business?

Culture, in its simplest terms, is what is okay and what is not okay in the workplace. I usually describe it like jelly. Everyone knows what it is, but it’s hard to get a hold of. 

Let’s consider the wearing of headphones as an example.

If you run an architecture studio, what is your policy on headphones? Do you let your employees have their headphones in all day, potentially stifling some conversation or camaraderie in the studio? Or do you implement a ban on headphones altogether, which could in turn potentially alienate some staff members who find that certain music increases productivity? The key is to find a culturally acceptable solution that meets the needs of the staff and the business.

Handled badly, a deceivingly simple decision such as this can have a rather large impact on how your employees perceive the practice. 

In essence, culture comes down to the vision in a company. As an owner, it’s important to take a step back and analyze what exactly you want your business to look like. Once you have established some key values for you and your practice, only then should you look at the acceptable and unacceptable behaviors in the context of that value.  

It’s also important to be specific and timely when establishing the culture in an office.

Let’s go back to the headphones example. If you’re going to allow headphones, clearly define when headphones are allowed. Are they allowed only in the afternoons? Mornings? Articulate the behavior clearly and definitively to everyone so that there is no confusion.

As owners, we also want to set the culture as early as possible in the practice. For small practices who are thinking of hiring, establish what sort of culture you’d like to develop in your practice and then try incorporating that into the conversations with possible candidates. Because culture is not something that can be directly dictated by the leaders of an organisation from the C-suite, it’s a good idea to try to further cement your culture with new hires. 

There’s also another aspect of culture that should be kept top of mind.

Culture needs to allow room for individuality. There has to be space for the extrovert and the introvert to work freely and comfortably. It should be accommodating of different types of people and personalities. 

Like many other facets in business, there is usually not a “one-size-fits-all-solution” for culture. Find what works for you, and try to stick with it. 

Culture is one of the key topics that we cover on our Designing Architectural Practice Success Course. However, if you are looking for something that is more in-depth and catered to your practice, we also offer a Purpose, Culture and Values Workshop. Get in touch with us today to find out how Archibiz can help you lead a successful and impactful practice.