What Do You Look for in Office Culture?

Posted November 29, 2013 by Adrienne Asselmeier in On the Ladder
As I recently mentioned, I transitioned out of my non-profit position and into a marketing firm. It’s really excited to be where I am now. When my former boss asked me what some of the reasons were for why I was leaving (there was no animosity, but she was curious), I told her several things. The first one was flexibility and a flexible schedule. The second was the casual environment. Honestly, the pay increase has been the last thing on my mind. The reality of the situation is that on a daily basis, the culture and environment at your job has a lot more affect on your happiness than anything else. So why does it seem like so many people who are in charge and could make an incredible office culture don’t try to make it great?

Sometimes I think that it’s just habit. When a management member looks around to other offices and thinks that they’re pretty similar to what their workplace offers, then they think that they don’t need to change. I wonder if they ever ask staff about office culture and whether or not it is desirable to employees. I’ve never been asked! And I’ve had plenty of suggestions.

Here are my top suggestions for what I (and a lot of people) look for in a great office culture:

  • Jeans. I swear, this is just about the silliest, yet the most requested office environment amendment that people would like to see. When I accepted my offer and knew I was moving to a casual office setting, I immediately went out and bought jeans. I now have enough to go almost two weeks without repeating. I’m not kidding! I was so excited to buy more jeans. When I visited people for lunch this week and came straight from work in my jeans, the people who met me actually told me how jealous they were. What is it about the ability to wear jeans that makes your culture so much better? I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, it’s the fact that I never wear “work pants” outside of work, so having to buy a bunch of slacks is a burden. Even when they fit well and look good on me, I still don’t like wearing them. Jeans are cool and comfortable. I wear them outside of work all the time. Plus, jeans are not just for farmers! I understand that fifty years ago jeans were only for manual labor, but the fact is that now jeans come in classy cuts, dark colors, and totally work-appropriate styles. So what’s the reason to ban them? Who knows! Not me. I think that your culture should value how hard someone works and not the material of your pants.
  • Flexible hours. Why does everyone work nine to five? Because everyone else works nine to five. I’m not sure why this paradigm is so ingrained in most companies, but let’s be real: not everyone’s life fits into a nice box where their work window starts at 9 A.M. and ends at 5 P.M. I like starting earlier than most. Getting to work at 9 A.M. feels late to me. So does my boss care if I start at 8 A.M. and work to 4 P.M.? Or if I occasionally have to head out for something during the day and am gone for an hour? Nope. I’m still going to get my hours in, and I’m going to do a better job than most other people would do. I have high standards for my work both in quantity and quality, so is there any reason to force me to fit into a certain window that may not work for me? That’s the kind of thinking that makes for an undesirable work culture and adds to expensive turnover, reduced productivity, and lower-quality talent.
  • Group lunches. I’ve seen this one on many lists of tips for bosses to make a better work culture. Instead of getting pizza or telling everyone to fend for themselves, experts suggest getting good catering every now and then. Occasionally having a healthy lunch available for staff will promote team-building, and just plain show that everyone is appreciated. It doesn’t need to be expensive—just thoughtful.

I could go on and on. Active work spaces. The ability to work from home. Awards. Gym memberships. There’s no end to nice perks that can improve your company culture. So what matters to you? What would you like to see for your company?

About the Author

Adrienne Asselmeier

Adrienne "Dren" Asselmeier is a writer and marketing specialist. Dren has a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature and is a blogger, runner, over-achiever, and friend to everyone. She likes to write about science-based health and fitness, small business ownership, and motivational topics.