Inclusivity in the workplace requires a space that is fully capable of accommodating different types of workers from many different walks of life. If you’re thinking of updating your existing space, or starting your business off on the right foot from day one, you can benefit from applying several design principles that will foster a more welcoming work environment where every employee feels welcome.
Sensyst understands the need to craft workspaces that cater to many different individual needs, which is why we are always thinking of new ways to implement inclusivity into our design philosophy. Today, we’re sharing some of those tips with you, so you can get an insider’s look at how we design, structure and implement inclusive ideas into modern office design.
Great employees come from different backgrounds, but some of them may face extra challenges in the form of physical disabilities. Even if your existing team has no disabled workers, that may change in the future. This is why it’s so important to consider accessibility when designing an office space, or else you risk losing out on top-tier talent. For instance, you may receive a resumé from a seasoned, expert coder who just happens to require wheelchair access. Make sure this is future-proofed into your workplace beforehand.
Other features like audio proximity alerts around potentially dangerous areas like stairwalls can reduce the risk of injury to employees who may be blind or sight-impaired. You can even go the extra mile and incorporate braille signs and indicators to make it much easier for them to get around. These aren’t just handy tips for employees, but also visitors such as clients who may wish to get a tour of your facilities. Taking their needs into account without them having to ask is a big win for companies who want to send the right kind of inclusive message.
OPEN CONCEPT DO’S AND DON’TS
The open concept workspace has become one of the most sought-after design motifs for businesses over the last decade, but the model did require some tweaks and revisions to deal with its inherent weaknesses. First, employees do not all think, behave or work the same way within a shared space, which means the open concept can be detrimental to those who may have trouble concentrating. An inclusive open space factors in the need for privacy so that employees can feel more comfortable, without any distractions hampering the efficiency of their work.
If your space allows it, try to mix in a series of large and small meeting rooms to cater to different kinds of arrangements. Large rooms are more suitable for department-level meetings, while smaller rooms are perfect for small teams who need to collaborate without becoming distracted by the hustle and bustle of the open work floor.
Outside of an open concept-style office design, there’s still a need for employees of different personality types to be able to switch things up in order to stay focused. These days, modern offices are designed so that multiple areas can serve more than one function. Even something as seemingly-purposeful as the break room can provide a space for employees who need a quiet place to relax while they finish up their afternoon tasks.
Consider also the newfound integration of remote work into company operations. The global pandemic accelerated this trend by a paradigm shift, which means more employees are either working from home, or opting for a split between the company office and the home throughout the week. Catering to individuals who are able to work under this kind of arrangement can open a lot of doors for them, as well as for your company, by giving you a means to attract new talent seeking flexible work options. If your remote-based employees require a few tech gadgets such as webcams, software, etc. in order to function properly, it’s wise to invest.
Our world has never seen more cultural crossover than it has in the modern age, which is why it’s important to factor this reality into aesthetic design. The use of colour and décor should not reflect the tastes of just one group of people, but all. Thankfully, this is easier than it sounds. There are plenty of contemporary aesthetic designs that are considered universally appealing, and will in turn help workers from different backgrounds feel united in a common goal as they work together.
A great way to implement this in your workspace is to focus less on generic aesthetics, and more on your company brand. Make sure your office promotes your company’s colours and design elements to create a sense of cohesion in the workplace, which will help retain your existing talent, while attracting new workers into the fold.
REMEMBER CULTURAL CUSTOMS
Regardless of whether you’re a believer or not, the simple fact is that your employees may not necessarily share your views. Employees from many different backgrounds no doubt adhere to a series of cultural norms that may seem foreign to others. Your workplace can help create constructive and open dialogue between cultural groups by promoting inclusivity in your office design.
For instance, prayer and meditation rooms are a great way for religious individuals to take the time necessary to remain steadfast in their faith, or give employees a space to de-stress and refocus. These can be invaluable spaces that will foster a sense of team spirit and togetherness, in spite of cultural differences. They’ll also promote a happier, healthier workspace that recognizes the need to take five and have a breather, especially when work becomes stressful.
LISTEN TO YOUR EMPLOYEES
The final key to creating a truly inclusive workspace is to listen to what your employees have to say. While your H.R. department may be able to handle a lot of clashes between workers, you as a business owner have a responsibility to keep your ear to the ground, and assess the vibe of the entire workplace. Failure to do so may leave you oblivious to problems brewing underneath the surface, and can lead to things like high (and costly) turnover, vastly reduced productivity, and missed opportunities.
Inclusive workspaces take into account employee input, but this kind of engagement requires owners and managers to make the first move. Don’t wait for employee concerns or frustrations to bottle up and boil over, but rather, encourage them to speak their minds and provide critical feedback that will allow you to intercept large problems before they get out of control. Granted, not all employee feedback will be constructive, but it’s far better to separate the wheat from the chaff, as opposed to not bothering at all.
These are just a few of the practical criteria that we put into effect into each of our office designs here at Sensyst. Our goal is to create workspaces that cater to everyone, regardless of who they might be, so that teams can operate like a well-oiled and (most importantly) happy machine. The benefits are numerous, and will have a direct impact on the long-term scalability and success of businesses who make it their priority.
Interested in designing your first inclusive space, or updating your current office? Sensyst is here to help, and we back that up with years of unparalleled experience in the ever-evolving world of interior office design. Give us a call today, and we’ll help you get started!