Change-ready culture
12 March, 2024
Creating a change-ready culture at work
What kind of change do businesses need to be prepared for, and how can you design that flexibility into your workplace?

One thing that we know about the world of work is that not only has it changed in the last five years, but change continues to be the defining feature of the workplace.

Hybrid working has emerged as perhaps the most prevalent approach to managing teams and office space. However, while hybrid working itself continues to fluctuate in its definition, all businesses then face the need to create working environments that are adaptive both structurally and culturally to accommodate evolving technologies, expectations, social change and to allow for their own organisational growth. 

With all of that in mind, how do you create a change-ready culture at work and how does office design contribute?

change-ready culture

What is a change-ready workplace culture?

A change-ready culture is one in which employees and employers feel prepared and willing to embrace change in a variety of forms within the workplace. This level of agility is associated with enabling organisations to respond quickly to sudden external disruptions (like the Pandemic or the emergence of industry game-changers) as well as evolutionary change, and their own growth and development. 

Change-ready culture

The benefits of a change-ready workplace culture

The ability to adapt to change has become a defining feature of successful companies over the years, enabling them to stand the test of time, evolve with changing cultures, technologies and social practices, respond to customer behaviours, economic shifts and so forth.

However, this ability to adapt is grounded in a brand’s deep-rooted understanding of who they are and a reverence for their core values. It’s this combination of identity and flexibility that allows businesses to thrive.

This is not a new idea – in 2011 Harvard Business Review published an article about how adaptability was the “new competitive advantage.” It was a point which has gone from a trend to a foundational need over the past 23 years, with the advent of rapidly advancing technologies, market disruption, supply change issues, a global pandemic and economic instability.

As workplace culture becomes ever more important, permeating the entire functionality of businesses and their success, it is little wonder that flexibility within this core pillar is essential.

With that in mind, widely recognised benefits of a change-ready workplace culture include: 

  • Agility
  • Innovation
  • Resilience
  • Allows employees to be flexible
  • Encourages creative thinking
  • Creates space to embrace new ideas
attract and retain

What are the hallmarks of a change-ready culture?

Businesses that embrace a flexible, change-ready approach to the culture and structure of their workplace typically adopt a process of continuous assessment, both of themselves, their competitors and the world around them, taking inspiration from adjacent sectors as well as entirely different spaces.

Forbes has also contributed to the conversation, describing adaptability (for which a change-ready culture is fundamental) as being key to company success. They defined adaptability in the terms of Dr. Tony Alessandra, who said: “It combines flexibility with versatility. Flexibility is your willingness to adapt. It’s your attitude. Versatility is your ability to adapt. It’s your aptitude.”

Within that, they note that characteristics of an adaptable workplace include the development of meaningful business relationships, strong skills development capabilities and great communication and feedback.  All these are behaviours which can be profoundly influenced by the design of the workplace.

A big part of creating a culture that embraces change comes from the commitment of leadership, which then filters through the culture of the company. That top-level buy-in is essential for driving initiatives and keeping them on track.

Crucially, the culture of a company is also essential to its ability to adapt. Resources are the most tangible feature instrumental to change. Having the time and budget to invest in environments and processes that shape workplace culture and provide the tools needed for flexibility, adaptation and a change-ready mindset and infrastructure are understandably pivotal. 

Designing offices for different generations

How can office design contribute to flexibility?

The design of the office contributes to the working environment on multiple levels. It’s about embedding brand in the design, but more importantly it’s also instrumental in driving behaviours, creating connectivity between teams, supporting wellbeing and being the physical embodiment of the organisation’s values.

Flexibility in the workplace works on a couple of levels – physical and mindset adaptability:

  1. By creating a flexible environment, we encourage a more dynamic mindset and give people options in how they operate each day.
  2. That physical flexibility also gives offices the opportunity to change the way the space is set up and used over time as needs change.

The first level would be how the workplace facilitates different working styles and needs. This might include optimising desk space with a hot desking approach, providing different seating areas depending on whether people want to work in private, in a communal area or in a lounge setting. This is very much about flexibility for people themselves, and how creating space for people to work at their best contributes to a wider culture prepared for adaptability and change.

The second level considers how the space itself might adapt over time to enable the business to grow and evolve, whether that’s changing how they work, how many people are in the team or new uses for the environment. Elements that contribute to this include the floor plans themselves, flexible partitions, modular furniture, and smart storage solutions.

Examples of successful flexible workplace designs

Flexible workplace design is a key contributor to creating a change-ready company culture. However, what that looks like is also dependent on the individual wants and needs of the organisation, its people and what it does. We work closely with our client to ensure their office space is future-proofed and designed with flexibility. For example:

Community at a growing global digital agency

Croud is a global, full-service digital agency that drives growth for brands through reinvention. At their new office at The Bard in the East End of London, they wanted a space that reflected their dynamism, that created a spectacular impression and provided space for scalability both in size and mindset.

Flexible spaces were central to that, from adaptable working zones to a pivotal circular breakout area which encourages sociability, operating as a tea point by day while in the evening, they host DJs, play music and make it an engaging and communal environment.

Multipurpose functionality sets an international benchmark

ServiceNow is an American software company that helps companies manage digital workflows. At their UK office, they wanted a workplace that allowed them to think about space differently, optimising it in alignment with changing working practices.

To maximise the functionality of the space today and in the future for different purposes, we thought creatively about how it was divided. For example, glass partitions meant that we were able to create nooks and private spaces without the space feeling enclosed, while collapsible walls, and acoustic curtains were used to zone out open spaces as needed, creating a benchmark for their other international offices.

Changing the mindset around staff retention

Lowell UK Shared Services is a market leader in debt management, and worked with us to create an exceptional, 120,000 sq. ft. purpose-built office in Leeds. Central to the whole design was employee wellbeing, and thinking differently about how to maximise resilience, happiness and retention.

Part of that was turning the entire top floor into a dedicated team space, filled with natural light, a coffee bar with an impressive cherry blossom installation overhead, and a range of seating from hammocks to modular sofas.  In terms of a change-ready mindset, this is a space that allows the team to think differently about work and how they feel in the workplace, creating healthier dynamics and a culture of support.

Want to create a working environment that improves staff and company resilience and agility?

Speak to the team at Maris