30 September 2021

Don't overlook this work culture factor

When hundreds of professionals tell you that they care nearly as much about “work culture” as they do about their salary, you can’t deny its importance. Having an attractive work culture should be a concern of all employers… but what exactly does that mean? To help with this question, we talked to Gerd Steegmans, work environment specialist, to learn about how the environment affects work culture.

We recently surveyed over 500 digital marketing experts in the Belgian market. In addition to questions about earnings, we also focused on the topic of motivation and satisfaction. We were not shocked to learn that the number one motivator for changing jobs is a better salary. However, what we also saw was that nearly as many of these professionals would change their job simply for a better work culture. These results were repeated in another survey, leaving us to wonder… What is a great work culture?

Enter: Gerd Steegmans. Gerd and his company EFF3CT have been helping create productive and future-proof working environments for 20 years, specializing in translating work culture into office design. Our founder and CEO Jeroen Van Ermen sat down with Gerd to discuss the impact of the work environment on a company's work culture, and what a return to the office means for your team.

Watch the conversation:

Jeroen Van Ermen:

So I'm wondering Gerd, if a company today is not actively concerned about company culture, should they worry about office space?

Gerd Steegmans:

Yes Jeroen, and I think that we both agree upon the point that office culture work and culture is something that is very important and that every company should worry about the culture that is installed in the organization. Of course, besides that, the work environment has one primary function, it's also to organize work. And if an office space is well thought through and well designed, then it supports work that needs to be done in the work environment in the best way. So even though companies would say okay, I don't really care about work culture, then the workspace is still a very important tool if you want to get work done in the most efficient and productive way, of course.


COVID happened, of course, how does this impact this whole concept of working together in the office? We now see all these employers requesting their employees to come back to the office after a very long period of remote working. What should the post-COVID office look like?


Well, I think if there is one thing that we have learned, it is that social bonding, bonding between employees and this identity, to be able to identify yourself with your employer, that is something very important. And as I see it, most of the companies will install a telework policy that consists of two or three days working from home or teleworking and two or three days at the office. And of course, it's a big opportunity for companies to adapt their work environments to bring more alive this corporate culture in the office and to install when people come to work at the office. So, that will be more and more important, the idea of creating collaborative workspaces that was already an idea that was going on before COVID. But nowadays, that idea is being implemented at a much higher speed than ever before, in addition to creating something that is more cozy, that we can work together in a more informal way also. So, the human oriented part of working together is also becoming more and more important.


Okay, do you have an example of a recent project that you did in creating that kind of environment in the office?


Well, if I tell you that we have experience of 20 years creating post-COVID work environments, you would not believe without any doubt. But we are working for example, with some larger companies, banks, for example, at scale and also at their point of view, but they discovered when they did a very extended survey that we give the employees. Also it came up that when people are at the office there is a different kind of need than before. Working together, the social aspect, the social bonding. There are elements that are becoming more and more important.


Okay, maybe a bonus question: What's a mistake that we should all avoid in making our office space now future-proof?


Well, I think the biggest mistake is to believe that you can copy-paste successful projects, and that we can build with the same building blocks, the same elements of work environment, and that it will also work for the organization. I believe in an approach that takes into account the culture, the people, the specific kinds of activities that take place in each kind of organization, and that you start from that analysis and that kind of needs to start creating an ideal working environment. And when going into that process, it would be very grateful to involve people, to consult them to also make this very co-creative process so that they also can contribute to the final solution. And then it will be much more effective than just copy-pasting and believing that it will work also.


Exactly. Alright, super interesting. Thanks for sharing your insights here. And good luck in further designing those offices of the future.

What's next?

There so many more factors that build and maintain a work culture that are found above and below the surface. They can be in the office, online, and beyond, and shift along with the needs and expectations of society. Got an opinion or question about work culture? Bring it to our home on social media!