11/17/2020 • 4 min read

The Shape of the New Workplace Ecosystem

How workspaces will adapt based on culture type

by Haworth, Inc.

Workplace culture is intangible, yet it touches every aspect of work. Shaped by an organization’s values, culture affects where, how, and when we work. As we adapt to a new workplace ecosystem, it’s critical to consider how culture influences space design.

Ecosystem for 4 Culture Types

The shifts we’ve seen in the last eight months indicate the office—as we knew it—will change. Instead, the trend is for people to work across an ecosystem that balances office, home, and third places. Yet the office will remain the hub for work and culture.

The way organizations adapt to the new ecosystem depends on the primary value driving their culture. In leveraging the Competing Values Framework™, we look at four culture types: Collaborate, Create, Control, and Compete. Each culture type approaches how, where, and when work is done differently.

Let’s look at how the new workplace ecosystem will need to adapt to better support each culture type based on our research.

Collaborate Culture

Collaborate cultures tend to be open, friendly, and sharing. They are relationship-oriented organizations that operate like extended families who seek to do things that last. A spirit of community and cooperation is vital to the success of Collaborate cultures.

For those in Collaborate cultures, the new workplace ecosystem could mean a majority of worker time (60%) is spent in the office; the remaining time may be split between home (20%), and third places (20%).

Floorplates for Collaborate cultures will emphasize group spaces that support social interaction and a mix of activities. This includes cafés, lounges, and community spaces. Space is also needed to support workers meeting to accomplish specific tasks, strategic sessions, and all-hands meetings.

Create Culture

In pursuit of constant innovation, Create cultures (think high-tech, advertising, and product development firms) could spend the majority of their time at the office—like 80%. Those working in a dynamic, entrepreneurial Create culture need face-to-face time to brainstorm and develop breakthrough products and services. Work from home could be 15% of their time, and third places just 5%.

In the office, dedicated team spaces and open social spaces that support innovation get top priority for Create cultures.

Plus, risk-taking Create cultures need agile spaces that can adapt to changing needs. Key spaces should be designed for creative problem solving, keeping in mind that the results of these sessions must be presented and acted upon, which can require different types of spaces.

Control Culture

In Control cultures, it’s most important to do things right. These structured teams thrive on formal internal processes, standardization, and risk management. Like Create cultures, Control cultures are likely to spend 80% of their time in the office. Home could account for 20% of their worktime, and they’ll likely eschew third places altogether.

Space allocation in Control cultures—like government agencies or manufacturers with multiple levels of management—will be designed around three primary activities:

  • project development
  • formal meeting
  • individual work

Information in Control cultures is most often delivered in a scheduled meeting or formal presentation requiring large gathering spaces. However, meeting rooms, private offices, and assigned workstations will also be important to this group.

Compete Culture

Results-driven Compete cultures, where they do things now, will spend less time in the office than the other three cultures. Their dynamic of intense competition might put them in the office just 30% of the time and working at home 20% of the time. Third places will likely be the location where they spend half their time.

When Compete cultures do spend time in the office, they are unified by an emphasis on winning and reputation. They need spaces that provide convenient access to shared tools and workstations with ergonomic task seating. They also need areas that accommodate strategic thinking, presenting ideas, and connecting informally.

One Thing We Know for Sure

In a world changed by COVID-19—and still changing—we know one thing for certain: Workplaces need to be flexible. They need to enable change as rapidly as people and organizations require. Individuals and teams will choose the right space based on the task required and where they feel the most productive.

Spaces designed before the pandemic might not be the right fit for the future. As we transition into this new ecosystem, we take with us a better understanding of what worked and what did not. Applying this new perspective will allow us to rethink the design of the office, home, and third places to maximize their potential for future work.

To learn more about the transformation of the workplace ecosystem, explore our Work from Anywhere approach.


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