If you’ve never worked in an office before, the concept of “company culture” can be a little hard to pin down, and you might be wondering why it even matters. Work is work, and all offices are pretty much the same, right? Not quite. Psychologist Natalie Baumgartner explains that company culture accounts for 89% of employee success at an organization. Put another way, only 11% of your success or failure can be attributed to your own strengths and talents! Let’s take a look at some of the major components of company culture and why they might matter to you.
Company and office size
Bigger companies tend to have more structure, bureaucracy, and clearly defined roles, which can make processes more rigid. Smaller companies make it easier to get to know everyone, but you may need to step up and do things not explicitly in your job description to fill in gaps. Also, there can be a big difference between working at HQ versus a branch or satellite office. If you’re considering working for a company with multiple offices, it’s worth finding out how communication is handled between departments, how often (if ever) you’ll be expected to travel to HQ, and what the likelihood is of you being asked to relocate.
Company mission and values
Most companies publish their mission and values online, so you should definitely take the time to read these before you go somewhere for an interview. Sometimes these values may be generic and not give you much insight, but in some cases they’ll tell you a lot about a company. Zappos famously embraces weirdness and often asks interviewees to rate their weirdness on a scale of 1 to 10. Would you embrace this type of environment or feel uncomfortable there?
Schedule and working hours
The overall structure of your workday can really vary depending on the company. Will you need to clock in or keep a timesheet? Do you have to be at the office at a certain time every day? How long do you get for lunch? These are all things that will have a big impact on your working environment.
The way that you’re expected to present yourself can also have a surprising impact on your attitude and outlook. Are hoodies and sneakers de rigeur or will you need to invest in a new wardrobe of business attire? Some companies may also have different dress codes depending on whether you’re spending the day internally or out meeting clients.
Will you be in a cubicle, open-plan desk, or have your own office? Open-plan offices tend to be noisier and more distracting, but conversations and communication can be easier in this setting. Cubicles can be isolating, but also make it easier to concentrate. One friend of mine who has her own office says she’ll sometimes go an entire day without speaking to someone. Would you like this or loathe it?
Are you hoping to make friends with your coworkers? Some companies encourage and even expect socializing to take place during and after hours. A lot of start-ups, for example, always have beers in the fridge and a ping pong table or Xbox beckoning you. In other companies, employees leave as soon as their workday ends. Are you prepared to cope with either side of the spectrum?
You’ve probably already heard the laundry list of perks at companies like Google: free food, nap pods, haircuts, and, yep, even free laundry. Not all companies offer the same degree of care for their employees, but you may get things like snacks, free or discounted health club memberships, tickets to events, and discounts on merchandise. You probably don’t want to join a company based on the perks alone, but they might be a good deciding factor if you’re trying to weigh your options.
Now you know what sorts of things to look for, but how do you actually find out all that before you start working somewhere? Here are a few resources to help you out:
- The Daily Muse’s “4 Sneaky Ways to Determine Company Culture in an Interview”
- Levo League’s “Company Culture: “5 Big “Little” Things to Consider When Interviewing”
- Lifehacker “How to Find Out If a Company is a Cultural Fit for You”
To find out more about specific companies, try:
- CareerBliss (e.g. “Top 20 Companies Where Employees Love Their Coworkers”)
- Glassdoor (e.g. “10 Cool Office Spaces”)
One final note: Some things you can only learn through trial and error. You might think that you’d like to work in a big company, but be surprised to find that a small company is actually a better fit. Don’t stress out about this too much. Just use the knowledge you have of yourself and your prospective company to make the most informed decision you can. You’ll only get better at this as you progress in your career!
Homework time! Which aspects of company culture seem most important to you? Make sure you ask questions about them next time you have a job interview.