9 Office Culture Trends for 2014

As the founder and chief creative at WHISK, creating strategy for thriving workplace culture is at the core of our day-to-day conversations and design process. I’ve seen what’s worked — and failed — in some of the most innovative and intelligent companies coast to coast. What matters in developing resilient, healthy companies are deepening bonds between colleagues, improving spatial and environment design, and communicating core values across teams. With those values in mind, here are nine office culture trends we can anticipate seeing in 2014:

1. Encouraging a culture of giving back

We’ve already seen companies like Square participate in weekly neighborhood streets cleanup sessions. I anticipate an increase in regular community-based volunteer work sessions among teams as a way of creating meaningful shared experiences to express core company values. As bonds are built among colleagues and community alike, I see a win-win on the horizon in 2014.

2. A return to nature

The majority of offices are in the midst of concrete jungles (while the Financial District and SOMA have their perks, natural beauty isn’t one of them). Solution: bring the outdoors in; take the indoors out. Prediction: offices will realize the importance of introducing an earthy element into their environment. We’ll see more rooftop, balcony, and urban container gardening, or purposefully designed living wall/living plant installations within office refreshes and moves. Perhaps we’ll even see some office kitchens designed around a communal garden! For others, we’ll see more farm work days, digging hands in the soil, and connecting with where your food comes while also absorbing a little extra vitamin D.

3. Less time connected; greater impact

It’s not news that no one works 9 to 5 anymore. We’re constantly connected and often in a state of digital fatigue, looking at a screen (whether mobile or static), answering emails, and taking calls around the clock. While it may not be explicitly stated, it is expected to be accountable more often than not. Even if you work in a culture of get it done versus why didn’t you answer that 8 p.m. email, you still have to complete the work by a deadline, often with distractions creeping up along the way. However, our bodies (necks, shoulders, and backs) can’t keep up with the demand. So, how do we do our work with greater impact in less time? We’re not going to answer that, but we think (smart) companies will ask this question more in 2014, and savvy workers will work toward creating more life/workstyle hacks.

4. Core competency: cultural mindfulness

Hiring based on previous performance and experience has been the norm — but will it be going forward? How about hiring based on values or culture fit? We’re already seeing (and will continue to see) companies placing more focus on shared core values and company culture when interviewing, hiring, and firing. We’ll also see more employers emphasizing a show vs. tell mentality.

5. Plan your office like a city. Or park.

Cubicles are a thing of the past. But an open plan isn’t always the answer. What if more offices modeled environment and space, form, and function around some of the best planned cities? They would create organic spaces for people to convene by design and chance, not by appointment. Take, for example, Square’s new office. They created an avenue, much like an urban city block that’s flexible for all sorts of interactions, both intentional and unplanned. It works really well, although not for everyone. Design rooms intended for specific use: ideating vs. decision making vs. learning. As workspace layouts evolve with a little help from design and forethought, creativity and communication thrive.

6. The changing face of the board room

Make your board room the new communal kitchen table. We all know the best conversations take place centered around food. Better yet, hold a meeting as an in-office brunch at the table. You fit in a weekly social hour as well as get important work done. Take a look at what IDEO’s Chicago office is doing as inspiration.

7. Creativity is good for all departments

Creativity is no longer strictly reserved for designers. Companies are beginning to realize that by having all of their employees (yes, even those in finance) participate in creativity-focused contests and projects, they not only keep things interesting, they also keep innovations coming. By getting their creative juices flowing, employees are able to clear their heads and approach their work with a fresh perspective. Allowing opportunities for your team to shine and create outside of their strictly-defined job descriptions is a smart move.

8. Brand = Culture

What’s the environment in which you do your best work, and does the culture support that? Brand has historically outweighed culture when it comes to public image, but we see that changing. Culture is increasingly meeting brand image as an equal, and we can only see that as mutually beneficial. Your work is only as good as your team.

9. Food = Fuel + Community

Feeding your team nutritious, balanced meals yields an exponential ROI. From providing nutrient-dense, vitamin rich meals (thereby creating stronger immune systems), saving time wasted walking long city blocks without healthy food options, and enabling opportunities for people to bond over a shared basic need (eating) on a daily basis, we find that teams that are fed well by their employers not only feel more connected to their colleagues, they’re more efficient and impactful in their work. It’s time to build a kitchen and see the magic unfold firsthand.

Photo by Dmitry Vasilyev via Thinkstock

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Originally published on Dec. 13, 2016 at www.thebolditalic.com.