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Reminding Ourselves That Culture Is More Than Cool Office Perks

Reading Time: 3 minutes

At Stories Incorporated, we read tons of articles on company culture, and one of the themes we see in those articles is that ‘culture is much more than ping pong tables and a stocked fridge in the office.’ This idea—with which we agree completely—gets so much coverage that you would hope that writers in respected business publications wouldn’t suggest otherwise. However, writers still do suggest that culture is in fact the games and food you provide your employees and little more than that.

An article published last week. in Inc. magazine makes that blunder by citing an study and proposing that “your awesome company culture” is the #1 cause of sub-optimal productivity in your workplace.

My issue is not in the findings of the study, which found that “86 percent of respondents prefer to work alone to hit maximum productivity.” I don’t even necessarily disagree with’s conclusion that, “while group-oriented workplace perks like foosball and bean bag lounges have become popular tools for unlocking creativity and boosting morale, they don’t always drive efficiency.”

My issue is with the Inc. writer using “your awesome company culture” in the context he does.

There are many definitions of company culture out there, but the most-respected ones refer to it as something like the sum of a variety of environmental and interpersonal factors that contribute to work getting done effectively toward a common vision. Therefore, if you have an “awesome company culture,” your team—by definition—gets work done effectively and does not have a productivity or efficiency problem (or at least one big enough to require significant changes to the workspace or its perks).

Perhaps my argument is based entirely on semantics, or perhaps my definition of ‘awesome’ is a lot different from others’. Regardless, the article reinforces the need to repeat the fact that “culture is much more than ping pong tables and a stocked fridge.”