Monday, May 20, 2013

Cultural Differences in Workplace and Office Design

It's interesting to see how cultural differences are playing a role in the way offices are being arranged. In an article "How Culture Shapes the Office" (HBR, May 2013), Christine Congdon and Catherine Gall identify 6 dimensions of workplace culture which are very similar to Hofstede's dimensions.
Some highlights are:
- In Russia, teamwork is strong within groups, but there is little communication between departments that are highly separated (AUTOCRATIC). In the UK, interaction at all levels is welcomed (CONSULTATIVE)
- In the US, offices are arranged to allow for an INDIVIDUALIST perspective. In China, employees are OK with dense and standard office space (COLLECTIVIST).
- In Italy you can find visible symbols of hierarchy such as private offices (MASCULINE), while in the Netherlands office spaces are reflecting equality (FEMININE)
- Contrary to Russian workers, people in the UK have a high TOLERANCE FOR UNCERTAINTY and they like offices that allow mobility and creative sharing.
- Americans like their offices to allow for quick changes (SHORT TERM orientation) while in China offices reflect a LONG TERM preference. Executive offices are important symbols of tradition and order.
- Germany and the Netherlands people like an honest, explicit and direct way of communication (LOW CONTEXT). In China and India, indirect communication and unspoken signals are much more important (HIGH CONTEXT).