October 31, 2018

Rethinking the Standardized Corporate Office

When rethinking the standardized corporate office, what does it mean to “think global, act local?”

National and multinational companies thrive in the global marketplace thanks to technology that facilitates worldwide expansion like never before. Advancements in technology and business strategy have changed the ways we consume and work, but not always for the better. Consumers can begin to feel a certain placelessness in the marketplace of homogeneous mass-made products throughout the world. Anxiety about globalization can be read in consumer-led movements to buy local and support small businesses. Large companies are responding to these movements by investigating how they can adapt their brand to the local context. Advertising and marketing campaigns from global brands like Nike, ABC, and Coca-Cola are strategizing to capitalize on a more localized sentiment among consumers. The Harvard Business Journal calls this a “glocal” advertising strategy: locally adapting a universally embraced core idea that will resonate in any market worldwide.

What do these trends in localization have to do with rethinking the standardized corporate office design? Consumers are not the only ones who might feel alienated by large brands – employees working in corporate offices and city branches are also susceptible to feelings of placelessness and insignificance in the global context of their organization. Sanitized corporate interiors that erase the context of the office location are the norm for international businesses with hundreds of offices around the world. An employee from Omaha could visit an office in Tokyo and feel like they never left Nebraska. While this might appear to be an effective way to enhance the employee experience by increasing comfort and familiarity in a globalized business atmosphere, the complete erasure of local context in the office can be alienating and lead to the disengagement of individual employees. Investing in a localized office design that creates a distinct sense of place in each location can help employees feel a sense of belonging and purpose. Adapting each office to the local context doesn’t require throwing out unifying characteristics but focuses on adapting each location to the specific need and context. A suburban location surrounded by trees might include a courtyard where employees can eat lunch when the weather is nice and a cafe on site. A city location might have a break room where employees can convene after getting lunch outside the office. Some locations might require seats dedicated to specific employees, while others might be able to adapt to a more flexible layout. The company culture can be translated into values shared across every location, but with attention to detail concerning each location’s needs. How do you know how you can best localize the design of each office? Co-creating the office space with the employees working daily in the office is a great place to start. Partnering with a local designer who knows the right questions to ask will help you discover how the corporate culture can be supported by designing for the specific needs of the local office.