Social Norms in the Office Environment

Unwritten Rules that Guide Behavior

Let’s face it: Change in the work environment can be disruptive for people and processes. For example, a well-planned workspace reconfiguration—intended to achieve a positive end goal—is sometimes challenging for people to accept initially. We feel comfortable with our routines—sitting in the same place, talking to the same people next to us, with everything set up just the way we like it.

But space transformation doesn’t have to be painful, especially when a change management process is implemented. We know this well at Haworth, where we frequently reconfigure our floorplans to support new ways of working, especially at our corporate headquarters—a showroom and workplace that demonstrates our research in a living lab we share with customers.


Involving team members through communication helped them understand the various process stages for the renovation, what space would be occupied, and where the groups would reside. When you implement a change management communication program, you can more easily manage employee engagement and adoption of new ways of working, along with the resulting workspace layout.

Managing change in the workplace, like any successful project, requires a systematic process that guides, prepares, and enables individuals to quickly adopt new ideas to achieve desired business results. Companies that effectively manage change consistently outperform their competitors. Well managed workplace changes help individuals make a positive transition and result in achievement of organizational goals.


People are creative and love to share ideas and solve problems. Providing events, meetings, and communication can help uncover their fears, frustrations, anger, or anxiety. A change management program offers opportunities to minimize these issues, find solutions that people agree upon, and connect teams to cultivate excitement about the change. Who knows what might happen? You may find employees offer new ideas for ways they can improve their own performance.

Haworth Inc. Honors HBI with 2019 Best In Class Distinction

HBI has been designated as a 2019 Best In Class dealership for the 5th time in seven years! The Best In Class distinction is awarded to dealerships based on exceptional performance in market development, sales, customer satisfaction, operational excellence and enterprise development.

“Only through outstanding dealerships like HBI is Haworth able to provide the exceptional service experience our customers deserve.” Franco Bianchi, President & CEO - Haworth


Haworth Inc. currently has 600 partners in its dealership network worldwide. HBI is one of 30 dealerships to be awarded 2019 Best In Class. This is a distinction reserved for those dealers who not only obtain the highest performance levels but are successful in maintaining those rigorous standards over time and against other high-performing dealers.

“The Best in Class distinction is a testament to our extraordinary team members and the exceptional work they perform everyday to ensure that we are satisfying our customers and achieving organizational excellence.” Michael Taylor, President & CEO – HBI

6 Ways to Cut the Ties to Structured Work

The Future is Flexible

Not surprisingly, “flexible” and “flexibility” are two of the most popular search words related to work benefits. The future of how, where, and when we work is evolving at an extremely fast pace. People no longer want—or need to be—tied down to the traditions of the past. Technology is changing the way we work, and today’s business trends are following right along—opening doors to a more efficient, convenient, and fulfilling work-life balance.

See how these six business trends are cutting the ties that bind, making work more flexible—and enjoyable:

1. 24/7 Work-Ability – not tied to a schedule
This is either the most feared or the most welcomed flexibility trend in work today. Those who oppose it, however, may find themselves left behind. Proponents love the ability to work when it works for them—and when their employers are supportive, it makes all the difference. After all, who wants the ability to work at 3 a.m., if you’re still being required to report to the office from 9 to 5 every day?

Used to its full advantage, open availability can work for both employees and employers. The key is finding (and maintaining!) the perfect blend of work and personal life. A Workfront blog article asks, “If you’re in that email inbox by 6 a.m. and still fielding requests at 8 p.m., should it really matter if you disappear from the office from 12-3 p.m.?” Honest answer: Not if you’re getting the work done and supporting your team. Leaders who understand this will find they have happier, more engaged, loyal employees.


2. The Gig Economy – not tied to a job
Millennials graduated from college in an era where jobs were scarce—let alone, careers in their fields of study. They fiercely competed for work and took jobs where they could find them, out of necessity. During that time, temporary work and freelancing became more prevalent as viable income alternatives.

As a result, contract work now seems “normal” to this entrepreneurial generation. To many Millennials, it’s even preferable—especially today, when being a nomadic freelancer or short-term worker offers not only the flexibility of when and where to work, but higher incomes and perks from businesses competing for talent. In fact, according to strategy+business, freelancing and gig work is now beginning to attract the attention of GenZers entering the workforce, while becoming increasingly popular with Gen X and Baby Boomers, as well.

To make the most of this Gig Economy, a Deloitte article in the Wall Street Journal suggests that organizations should offer competitive compensation, programs for learning and development, and more opportunities for people to prove their drive, strengths, and skills.

3. Mobility and Movement – not tied to a space
Our bodies were made to move. Doing so keeps us happier and healthier. Organizational leaders who understand this tend to attract and retain more engaged, productive employees. In an agile environment, work can take place anywhere—even when we’re on the move from place to place.

According to Inc., walking meetings allow employees to break away from their workspaces and build physical activity into the workday. These on-the-go conferences create casual and comfortable communication experiences that yield improved health for decreased healthcare costs and a lower number of sick days, greater inspiration and collaboration for creativity and innovation, and better working relationships between managers and employees as they walk side-by-side.

There are other ways to give employees a little healthy nudge and get them moving too. Offering a variety of inviting spaces for people to choose from encourages them to walk to a new area for a change of scenery, while giving them alternative places to work, collaborate, or just rest and recharge. Incorporating height-adjustable workstations and standing-height tables in the work environment gives people the ability to move around and change postures during the day, as well.


4. Wi-Fi Anywhere – not tied to the inside
As human beings, we’re drawn to nature. We paint it. We photograph it. We want to be a part of it. Now, with Wi-Fi making the outdoors more technologically accessible, there’s no reason we can’t get a little fresh air while we work. In fact, Haworth Senior Workplace Strategist John Scott says that the outside is becoming the new “in.” In A Different Path for Thinking, he explains that stepping outdoors to meet with your team or converse with a coworker has been shown to lower blood pressure, while activating creativity in the whole brain. And happy, healthy teams are more engaged and productive.

Today, according to Slate, giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, L.L. Bean, and Microsoft are embracing the outdoor movement, each experimenting with adding different outdoor settings from botanic gardens to tree houses to green roofs. This lends some credibility to the trend, but these players do have some pretty hefty budgets to work with. All you really need to get started is some comfortable furniture on a Wi-Fi enabled patio, balcony, or rooftop. You may be amazed by how simple it can be to create an outdoor social and collaborative space people will love to work in—or should we say, “out?”

5. Virtual Meeting Rooms and Offices – not tied to a location
In a world where we can now use FaceTime to connect with up to 32 people at once, remote communications capabilities are expanding every day. The “office” is becoming more of a concept, rather than a physical place. However, teams are still expected to come together for collaboration and sharing of knowledge—even if they’re not in the same location. Enter, virtual meeting rooms and offices.

Meetings in virtual office spaces are not standard conference calls—or even videoconferences. They are similar to in-person gatherings, but in digital destinations where invitees can participate in real-time collaborative work in various ways. Virtual tools can help people stay connected and productive, whether they’re a floor away or a world away. Here are some examples:

  • Online community platform, Slack, allows users to create secure channels based on teams, projects, clients, etc. and use those channels to ask questions, share files and feedback, access work tools and services, and generally communicate to get work done together.

  • Haworth’s technology tool, Bluescape, gives authorized users a nearly infinite collaborative canvas for presenting visuals and designs, sharing files and ideas, and even brainstorming, so everyone can see the whole picture and stay on the same page—from anywhere in the world.

  • And then, there are virtual coworking spaces, which encompass all the communal aspects of the office. Some even show you a virtual office floorplan, with avatars and office space for each employee. People can move from room to room for meetings and collaborate, or simply shut a virtual door for privacy.


6. In-Office Mobility – not tied to a desk
When we think of flexibility at work, we often think about our freedom and ability to move from place to place outside our office surroundings. But, what about furniture and tools that have the ability to move around us—within our office spaces? This is becoming more of a trend, providing flexibility and variation for changing workstyles, as well as easy-to-reconfigure spaces.

In-office mobility is no longer just limited to desk chairs on casters, though they are definitely the forerunners of this movement. Now, entire workstations are mobile, allowing people to move from place to place within the office on a moment’s notice. Travelling worksurfaces and whiteboards on wheels bring collaboration tools to any open space.


A colleague recently sent me an article by National Geographic called “Can The Ocean Feed a Growing World” .  The article says that food production will need to double by 2050 to accommodate the world’s population, and that farming fish could be the answer.

But National Geographic isn’t the first organization to talk about the 2050 food crisis.  One of my favourite discussions on the topic is from former commodities trader Sara Menker’s talk at TEDGlobal 2017 .  She offers a simple description of the problem and who it will affect most.  Ms. Menker uses the word “structural” several times in her talk.  I think she uses the word to describe policy and industry reform, which is undeniably crucial, but from my perspective there’s another interpretation: literal growing structure.

HBI has seen a trend in agribusiness to move towards higher yield-per-square-foot facilities.  Really, it just makes sense.  Densifying your assets lowers facility costs and raises profits – an easy sell to stakeholders.  That’s why we’ve been championing high-density, vertical growing equipment for years, and established Bloom Vertical to support sustainable trends in agribusiness.  Vertical Growing is not a new idea but it’s become more popular with the imminent legalization of adult-use cannabis in Canada.  This has given us a chance to test our systems against real facility needs.  The results surprised us.

Yes, growing vertical makes sense from a revenues perspective.  It’s also complicated.  Plants need lots of resources to thrive and moving to a vertical system means adapting existing processes to the new structure.  Here are some of the early questions we needed to address with our clients in agribusiness:

  • How do you attach resources to a vertical structure?
  • Can custom brackets be guaranteed for safety?
  • How do you protect lighting electronics from the water being distributed nearby?
  • How do you clean everything in case of disease?

Enter the Grower’s Rack, Canada’s most integrated growing system.

I’m not sure what the whole answer is to solving the 2050 food crisis, but I do know that HBI is doing our part.  Like Sara Menker said in her talk, “We can make a bold commitment to increasing yields – exponentially”.  Sometimes it starts right here at home.

Written by Janelle Sandboe, Strategic Storage Consultant with HBI/Bloom Vertical


Did you hear about the family that donated $1.5M with the Calgary Public Library to support free access to programming, or the dealership that donated $55,000 to the Humbolt Broncos families?  What about the dental hygienist who volunteered her skills … in Haiti?

There sure is a lot of good in Calgary.

And the people behind HBI make an effort to be good community members, too.  That’s why we consider ourselves privileged to support initiatives that embody our values of community and sustainability.  You might not know this about us, but one of our favourite champions is World-Record-Holder Frisby Rob, who tackles physical activity and bullying in schools.  We also offered temporary office space to our peers in Calgary that were displaced during the Floods.  And, we regularly engage with local post-secondary institutions through scholarships and bursaries, because the forward-thinking professionals of tomorrow often need support today.

Stay tuned for our next scholarship announcement later this month!

If you want to step up YOUR community involvement, here are 5 easy ways that your organization can give back:

  1. Know who your dollars are supporting when you choose to work with HBI.
  2. Save unwanted furniture or shelving from the landfill and donate it to a charity or NFP who needs it.  If you’re a charity or NFP, send us your wish list!
  3. Host a Pop-Up Pet Room in support of AARCS.
  4. Ask about what modern workspaces can do to meet their sustainability goals.
  5. Share what your organization does to support community and sustainability, and we will feature you on our blog!

In the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”


If you work in a particular industry for a while, you start to think you’ve seen it all.  That’s certainly true for me.  I’ve seen racking tower 40 feet in the air to hold millions of volumes of books.  I’ve seen 250 bankers boxes fit into an 8’x8’ cage.  I’ve even seen Queen Victoria’s Underpants.  But I’ve never seen shelving help to commemorate thousands of women.

Walking With Our Sisters is a travelling commemorative art installation that is beautiful, spiritual, poignant, and private.  It’s being hosted at MRU’s Riddell Library until May 13th, 2018 and honours the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women of Canada and the United States.  To fully respect the art, a secluded space was created on the 4th floor using HBI’s movable library shelving as privacy screens.

One of the most amazing things about my industry, which is strategic space planning (ie: furniture and shelving), is that a little bit of forethought can bring so much adaptability to a space.  When Mount Royal University designed the New Riddell Library, I don’t think they had exactly this use in mind.  But they did design a lot of flexibility into their space by choosing products that could do more than what you first think of.  Simple things like choosing HBI’s mobile and modern-looking library shelving gave them the chance to do a lot more than store library books – without having to buy additional products.

This exhibit is worth experiencing.  I’m so glad that I had a chance to see it and consider the reality of what the art commemorates.  Since pictures of the exhibit are not allowed, I highly recommend you check it out yourself.  You can learn more about the project at and see the Riddell Library Case study here.

Written by Janelle Sandboe, Strategic Storage Consultant with HBI