Management in the larger business sectors in Australia are starting to understand the importance of office and team culture in the success of their business and their ability to retain staff.

This concept seems to be much harder to establish in the SME sector as its focus is often taken up by all of the other aspects of owning and operating a small business.

Many SMEs have an understanding of the role of culture in their HR processes and focus their recruitment on finding people with similar values and ensuring they create a team that are the ‘right fit,’ but often the work environment itself does not reflect the culture they are trying to create and maintain. The team, the office, the service and in essence the whole experience in dealing with a business should reflect its culture and in turn result in a ‘brand’ that the business and the team can be proud of.

Your office design can reflect your culture in different ways, whether through the style of the design that indicates your professionalism or your philanthropic endeavours or the activities you encourage within your office. Businesses such as Google are well recognised for the style of their offices throughout the world, which reflect who and what they are.

“Our offices and cafes are designed to encourage interactions between Googlers within and across teams, and to spark conversation about work as well as play,” the company states.

Google's New Amsterdam Office

Google’s New Amsterdam Office

This concept can be developed for any business to ensure its brand matters and that its team and clients or customers feel part of that brand.

Using your workplace to reflect the culture of your business and develop your brand can have a number of benefits. It helps you recruit great staff and keep them long-term, and happy staff will perform better and want to be at work. Customers and clients can also see the culture at work. They can see that you “walk the talk.” Furthermore, people see it as the kind of organisation they want to work for or emulate.

When assessing the built environment for a business, SMEs need to consider the following questions:

  • What are the key values I am selling when I speak to potential team members or potential clients?
  • How can I ensure that is reflected in our marketing and our personal brand?
  • Is the proposed location for the office in keeping with those values? Is the style of building relevant for that business and its culture and will the team be happy in that environment?
  • Is everything we do and say reflecting that image that we are ‘selling’?

In the SME environment, budgetary constraints can be a key aspect in the design and fitout of an office. However, careful consideration at the beginning to develop a ‘master plan’ for the office, followed by an implementation plan to incorporate the ideas, similar to other business planning, will ensure the culture develops throughout the business as the business grows.