Unlock the Culture Code: New Steelcase research study


Steelcase today released the results of its comprehensive study of the impact of culture on the workplace, “The Culture Code”. The worldwide study reveals what organizations need to know about the role of culture in high performing workplaces and how the work space impacts the success of a company’s efforts to work globally.

The rapid growth of today’s emerging markets and global economy are driving a strong desire for many corporations to operate globally. Yet, as economists like Professor Pankaj Ghemawat note, the power of a fully globalized economy is still to be realized and for many multinational organizations, that global reach requires embracing a whole new way of thinking. This was the driving force behind the Steelcase research, to better understand how local and regional culture play a key role in the workplace and how companies can leverage these insights to provide effective work environments in across the globe.

“The global business world has shed a bright light on cultural differences and generated an extensive examination of values and behaviors around the world. Yet despite obvious differences in the design and utilization of work environments, little attention has been given to the implication of culture on space design,” says Catherine Gall, research director for Steelcase Workspace Futures. “As a result, leaders of multinational organizations often don’t realize that the work place is an underutilized asset in the process of global integration.”

The Steelcase five year comprehensive study of 100 workplaces in 11 countries – China, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Italy, Morocco, the Netherland, Spain, Russia and the United States – found even as information technology has made the virtual world prominent, the physical space remains crucial to fostering trust, creativity, sharing information and shaping a company’s identity.

The Study’s Key Findings:

The Role of Trust in Collaboration

To accelerate the process of global integration more rapidly and effectively, organizations must first understand and address the impact of trust on collaboration. How open a culture is to innovative collaboration practices can be predicted by comparing how workers are generally resistant or open to change and how prone they are to sharing or guarding information. Understanding cultural similarities and differences between countries is integral to inspiring fruitful collaboration among workers. When collaborative spaces are designed with an understanding of cultural norms it can build trust and foster innovation.

“Trust is the currency of collaboration. When workplaces are designed to foster cross-culture collaboration and innovation, work environments can help build trust among coworkers and between employees and managers,” continued Gall. “The further the distance, the harder it is to build trust with colleagues so companies cannot afford to ignore the trust issues stemming from cross-cultural encounters.”

Best Practices For Real Estate Optimization

Businesses that optimize their real estate in today’s crowded market will have a distinct advantage over their competitors. Yet the study reveals organizations can’t just shrink their workplace while ignoring employees’ wellbeing and productivity. A culture’s tolerance to density and acceptance to alternative work strategies will identify how to best optimize real estate in culturally accepted ways.

Workplace Strategies to Support Distributed Teams

Distributed workers are increasingly working with colleagues from around the world – this challenges the notion of business hours. In an effort to navigate time zone differences – as well as simple desires to balance work and life – more work is starting to happen outside the office. But not all cultures have the capacity or willingness to adopt workplace strategies that support flexible hours and distributed work. Readiness can be evaluated with two key factors: preference for separating work and personal lives and attitude about work supervision.

“Global organizations today are heading in the same direction- towards a workplace that fosters collaboration, optimizes real estate and ultimately enhances performance – we’re just at different points on the journey. As more companies look at the implications of culture and work to strike balance between local and corporate culture, we will see organizations reach the full potential of a globalized corporation,” Gall continued.

Full press release on www.steelcase.co.uk