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ASID and Haworth Leaders Discuss Evolving Workplace Culture

04/06/2020 By Jon Strassner

ASID and the entire design industry is examining evolutions and changes in workplace culture, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. Our industry is built on social dynamics, connecting and working with people you know and trust.

How will our evolving culture preserve these interactive elements and help them keep up with social demands? Will teams with their own cultural values still find ways to be productive?  

ASID Director of Industry Partnerships Jon Strassner discusses the evolving workplace culture and its vital importance with Lynn Metz, vice president, sales—Architecture and Design for Haworth Inc.  

Photo: Lynn Metz; Courtesy of Haworth

Jon Strassner: Haworth places a lot of value in culture at work. Can you define why this is so important? 

Lynn Metz: Culture is how an organization functions and expresses itself—it’s the organization’s personality that encompasses its values, assumptions and artifacts. It creates a sense of order, continuity and commitment that permeates every aspect of the organization, from how employees interact to customer perceptions. 

It can be a catalyst for employee engagement, collaboration and innovation, all of which help a business yield higher returns. Understanding an organization's culture through design can enhance an organization’s overall business goals. 

Jon: Can you explain Haworth’s concept of “Competing Values Framework” and how it plays a role in design? 

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Lynn: The Competing Values Framework was developed initially from research conducted by University of Michigan, Ross School of Business, and was based on the major indicators of effective organizational performance. It’s based on four culture types: Compete, Collaborate, Create and Control. Each culture type has different attributes and preferred methods for work. Each culture type has different ways they collaborate and innovate. By understanding the four culture types and their competing attributes, design can empower employees to drive innovation.  


Photo: Haworth HQ; Courtesy of Haworth

Jon: As different teams may adapt different cultures, does this mean each team needs its own unique environment? 

Lynn: Understanding the different cultures is one level of defining the environment and yes, each culture should acknowledge spaces that support the way they work and collaborate so they can effectively innovate. The design should also layer in an understanding of individual workstyles and human performance. For example, other aspects of designing environments should provide for both individual and group settings—and even consider outdoor work environments for employees to do their best work. 

Jon: How do you feel companies like Haworth impact another company’s culture with your workplace design approach? How does it impact your product?  

Lynn: We walk the walk, so to speak. Our corporate headquarters in Holland, MI, is a demonstration of how design solutions are based on understanding our overall culture and subcultures. It’s a working lab where we have tested our research and can share our stories. Our survey tools helped us define and validate our culture and workstyles and we offer these tools to our clients.  

Each client space is unique with its unique criteria for organization, facility and human performance, and we have workplace strategists that assist our clients and design firms through the design process.  

Being a global company, our products are developed based on our global research and our global perspective. We have teams around the world that research trends and engage with our global clients. Our products are designed with a design criteria of flexibility, adaptability and sustainability. This criteria provides product solutions that can adapt to the various cultures and organizational goals. 

One final note: In prosperous times and concerning times, both to the individual and to the organization, culture matters. 

Read Next: Commercial Interior Design Trends


About the Author: 

Jon Strassner is ASID director of industry partnerships.

Jon Strassner