Culture Framework Part 2: Environment | Feeling at Home with Airbnb
The way an employee feels at work defines what kind of employee they will be.
A good work environment helps people feel collaborative, open and receptive — not to mention just plain happier. And a fulfilled employee will want to share this mindset and spread the good word to customers, family, friends and like-minded potential employees.
The physical environment of an office has a huge impact on the way people work. When we think of a “bad” environment, visions of cubicles and fluorescent lights dance in our heads, but the reality is a misplaced ping-pong table or too much open space could be just as bad. If the environment doesn’t cater to the people in it — introverts, extroverts, collaborators and isolators alike — and consider the form and function of your business, it will limit the potential of the company.
Your company’s work environment is your culture in 3D, it’s your Shared Purpose in physical form, and the embodiment of everything you stand for. It’s the home where your business and employees reside, and it should reflect who you all are and what you all hope to be.
You Do You
When you walk into Airbnb’s San Francisco HQ, the first thing you’ll see on the wall of the entry are the words, “Belong Anywhere.”
It’s a phrase that sums up the company’s culture when it comes to customers, but it’s also a mantra that resonates with employees’ mindsets at work. Their HQ has big, open areas to meet with your team or stretch out with your laptop. It’s freeing and inspiring, but in the nooks and crannies there are private areas and flashes of color. Each of the meeting rooms is a recreation of the site’s most unique homes — including the original Airbnb, the home of co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky. The right environment, in many ways, means the recognition that we all work in different ways. Some of us need quiet and small spaces, while others gravitate toward open spaces and gatherings.
There is a diversity of thought that is welcomed by the right environment. An environment reflective of your company’s culture allows you to stay open to an array of perspectives, and it can channel the natural energy of a spectrum of employees in the right direction.
This is where Airbnb makes the distinction as an environment that goes “beyond the ping-pong tables,” so to speak. They recognize the value in creating space for people to feel as though they belong to the company and that the company belongs to them.
A Global Organization. One Airbnb.
A global company like Airbnb, of course, does not have just one physical environment, and that’s important in understanding what the term “environment” means within the Culture Framework. This is not about replicating the walls and decorations or even the layout of a space from office to office. It’s about reinforcing the mentality, ideology and Shared Purpose of a company to give employees a single lens and the resources to work in their best light.
To maintain Airbnb’s environment of belonging outside of HQ, the company deploys a dedicated team called Ground Control. Ground Control is, in the words of the company, responsible for bringing their culture to life. The team is 10 strong at HQ, and there is at least one member of the team at each of their offices around the world. On top of internal communications, employee engagement, rewards and recognition (another key piece of the Culture Framework), Ground Control is responsible for every office’s workplace environment.
Airbnb is no longer a start-up, and yet they have maintained that excitement and invigoration as they’ve grown into the dominating force in the vacation rental industry. Environment grows with the people who inhabit it, and so, once again employees are central to the life of this aspect of the company culture. And employees continue to build that environment of belonging and connectivity at their annual meetup, One Airbnb.
One Airbnb is an annual all-company event that was designed to show employees the integral nature of the community within the company. It takes place at HQ in San Francisco, where hundreds of employees interact with their global counterparts, exchanging ideas and sharing strategies. People leave the conference filled with the energy to travel and spread the mindset of the company.
The event instills that feeling of togetherness, if only for a few days every year, in a physical environment. It’s a reminder of the atmosphere and culture of acceptance, and it’s a manifestation of the diversity it takes to build a sense of belonging. And that is an environment where every employee can feel that they’ve made a difference.
Building an environment around your Shared Purpose will ensure that the right avenues open up and the right connections are made. Creating the right setting and providing the right resources for your employees will unleash the full potential of your people and your company.
Learn more about Shared Purpose and Culture Framework
Culture Framework, Part 1: Communications
Culture Framework, Part 2: Environment
Culture Framework, Part 3: Leadership
Culture Framework, Part 4: Structure
Culture Framework, Part 5: Rewards and Recognition