21st Jan 2020
B is for Behaviour
It’s time for the second instalment of our A-Z of Wellbeing and today we’re discussing workplace behaviour.
Changing behaviour isn’t always easy, but a well-designed office environment can be more influential in fostering positive behaviour change than you might first think.
But before we get too deep into it let us point out that we’re not discussing new knowledge here. In fact, the link between the built environment and behaviour has long been recognised. Winston Churchill noted the influence of buildings on our behaviours back in 1924 when he stated “we make our buildings and afterwards they make us”.
Since (unfortunately) Britain has one of the longest working weeks in Europe, many of us spend a large portion of our lives in one particular built environment – the office. So, today we’re discussing how a well-designed office can help to encourage and instil certain behaviours within your team.
The influence of design on behaviour
The design of your office physically embodies your business. It represents (or should represent) your culture, goals, work ethic etc., so from where we’re standing it’s bound to have an influence on the way your team behaves. Right?
But don’t just take it from us. Furniture design and workplace research giant, Steelcase, claims it’s undeniable that design affects the brain, and industry experts WorkDesign Magazine agree.
WorkDesign claims it’s becoming increasingly accepted that architecture has ‘actual cognitive consequences’. But they also acknowledge it’s not only the physical layout of the building that influences the behaviour of those using it, it’s also about the interior design.
Research has also found different designs can influence different behaviours. An obvious example would be removing every door in your office. This would completely change the actions of the people in the space as their privacy would be taken away.
A space for leaders to support their teams
According to Sara Armbruster, the Vice President of Research and New Business Innovation at Steelcase, a well-designed physical workspace has the potential to create better leaders and therefore help those around them to succeed.
How? We hear you ask. Well, Sara claims that as a leader, your office shapes your identity by enabling you to lead in certain ways.
As we well know, offices are evolving to promote engagement, productivity and wellbeing for teams. But Sara notes there’s rarely as much consideration about how spaces need to evolve for leadership alongside this.
Leaders are being encouraged to be more transparent instead of leading from behind closed doors, so of course they need a physical space that allows them to facilitate this.
One design route suggested by Sara is moving leadership offices to a central location where it’s easy for management to bump into other people. And for other people to bump into them, because collaboration should go both ways ‘up and down the ladder’, if you like.
In our opinion this definitely allows leaders to be more physically present in the business which can have a powerful, positive impact. It encourages openness, and the motivation to work hard as a team whatever your job title.
It also has the added bonus of leaders being able to identify where there might need to be changes in the business, behaviour or otherwise, and support initiatives that move the business forward in a positive way.
Of course this isn’t a solution for all organisations, but it’s just one example of how office design really can influence attitudes and behaviour.
Meeting the needs of your team
And perhaps more simply, meeting the needs of your team and providing the tools they need to complete tasks easily and efficiently is likely to inspire positive workplace attitudes and behaviours.
It means everyone can work to the best of their ability and makes negative behaviours (and the consequences) related to feelings like stress or frustration less likely to become an issue.
A great example of this type of behaviour-lead design is the creation of agile working environments. Many businesses are moving towards a more agile style of working, allowing teams to embrace maximum flexibility and minimal restraints. Becoming more agile as a business can inspire teams in many ways and change behaviour for the better.
You can read more in our ‘A is for Agile’ blog.
Transform your own workspace
According to research by Steelcase, nearly 60% of us are still working in private office spaces that are often not fit for purpose. If your business is ready to arrive in the age of agile working and collaboration, our experienced team of designers are here to help. Book your free workplace assessment below.