Building a truly inclusive workplace isn’t just necessary for recruiting and retaining top talent; it’s also the right thing to do.
Studies show that 4 in 5 workers want an inclusive workplace, and that inclusive cultures lead to higher employee engagement. Plus, anyone who’s ever experienced being excluded knows how important inclusion is to happiness and wellbeing.
In this post we’ll look at ways you can improve inclusivity in your business. These tips are designed to make your workplace more inclusive to all, regardless of their health status, gender, religion, etc.
Check out these ideas for building a more inclusive workplace, and let us know how you’re driving inclusion for your team in the comments!
Respect deep work time
Offering deep work time, where employees can really focus on producing something, instead of discussing ideas in meetings, is important. It means they can drown out external stimuli and concentrate better on their work. It also means they’ll produce something of a higher quality as a result.
You hired your employees because they’re good at doing the job, not because they’re good at sitting in meetings.
Giving them more time to actually do the work, to truly concentrate, will leave them more fulfilled in their role and mean you get more for your money.
Enabling people to make the most of their skills, working in the way that works best for them, is a great way to build a more inclusive workplace.
Create quiet spaces
As someone whose chronic pain is triggered by noise, there have been times when someone blasting music from a tinny smartphone speaker at 8am has had me almost scaling the walls, and not in a fun, Spiderman-like way.
Having quiet spaces where employees can go to disconnect in a busy office to meditate, or just grab five minutes alone, can really help anyone suffering from sensory overload to recover.
Employees shouldn’t have to hide under a desk, or in the bathroom, to find somewhere quiet and less overwhelming.
Remember that people experience the world in different ways, and one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to office design. Ensuring there are spaces to meet an array of employee needs is key if you want to build an inclusive workplace.
Provide prayer rooms
Regular prayers are an important part of some religions. Having a place for people to pray, and not organizing meetings during this time, shows you respect different beliefs.
If your team or company is virtual, you can still practice inclusion by allowing people to take breaks when it’s prayer time. Understand that they won’t respond to messages or calls during this time, either.
Offer adaptable equipment for different needs
Some people find virtual planners really helpful. Others prefer physical ones. And then there are those of us who are awkward and like a hybrid approach (yes, I’m that person).
Regardless of which camp an employee falls into, you should find ways to adapt to what they need. You can’t expect everyone to get on well with the same software. Some aren’t as versatile or user-friendly as they claim.
If there’s really no way around using a particular piece of software or hardware, make sure you offer enough training for employees to make the most out of it without it feeling like a daily chore that inhibits their ability to do their job.
Also, make sure that the desks, chairs, monitors, keyboards, and mice you provide work for each employee. Some people may benefit more from a vertical mouse or a trackpad than a traditional mouse, for example.
A simple change to office equipment can make a huge difference to someone’s ability to do their job and their quality of life. It can also make for a much more inclusive workplace.
Have a screen-reader friendly website
You know those ALT tags on images? They’re not just there for you to stuff keywords into that help you rank higher in search engines.
Their original purpose was to help screen readers describe images to partially sighted or blind users.
Therefore, when you’re using it for keyword stuffing, you’re actually making your website less accessible to differently abled prospects, customers, and employees.
Sometimes it can be hard to know how to describe an image, but it’s one of those things that comes with practice. It’s also a good way to develop your description-writing skills.
One of the best examples I’ve seen came from a friend of mine, when she wrote a guest post for my blog. She described the images in an SEO-friendly way while also injecting humor into them. This fit the tone of her article, helped with search engine rankings, and accurately described the images to anyone visiting using a screen reader.
Use inclusive language
The language you use says a lot about how you think, often without you even realizing it.
Addressing a room full of people as “guys,” for example, subconsciously assumes the default gender is male. You wouldn’t call a single person who didn’t identify as male a “guy,” right?
Language progresses, sure, but can’t we use something that has less gendered undertones? Folks, gang, people…there are lots of alternatives.
Disability-friendly language also plays a role here, such as referring to someone as hard of hearing instead of deaf. Be mindful that everyone has different preferences, though. For instance, some disabled people dislike the term differently abled, while others prefer it.
If you’re worried about getting it wrong, consider my next point…
Be open to listening and feedback
Sometimes you might try to be inclusive with your language, but say the wrong thing without realizing it. For example, this could happen if a trans employee or someone going through a transition hasn’t yet shared their pronouns with you.
What really matters is how you handle getting things wrong.
If you shut down and don’t listen to your employees’ feedback, you’re less likely to learn and grow. This will hold back your business—and employees—as a result.
When you’re open to feedback, it helps you stay up to date and adapt to what your workers need from you.
The more you listen to them, the more likely they are to listen to each other and even your customers and prospects. This creates a more welcoming environment for everyone, on top of fostering a more inclusive workplace.
Offer unisex bathrooms
If someone is transitioning, or considering it, unisex toilets save the awkward question of where they go to the bathroom. For some people, this makes their life a lot easier and less stressful.
These bathrooms should also include sanitary bins, since it’s not just women who menstruate. And sanitary products down a toilet don’t end well. Trust me on that one…
Give mental health first aid
Most offices have a first aider for cuts and bruises, but how many have someone specifically trained to help with mental health problems?
There are lots of training courses offering this now.
And as awareness increases around mental health, more workplaces should offer this to help their employees feel supported and accepted.
Well, there you have it! A list of ways you can really show how inclusive your business is, for employees and customers.
Whatever your business goals are, there are no downsides to being inclusive. A more inclusive workplace benefits everyone and leaves the world a better place. And you want to make a difference to the world, right? Who says you can only do that with the product or services you sell? Sometimes the environment you create matters just as much and can leave a lasting legacy, too.
If you’re looking for a surefire way to build a more inclusive workplace, Workrowd’s suite of tools can help. From supporting thriving employee groups, to increasing access and transparency, to amplifying employee voice, you get everything in one place alongside automated analytics.
Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more. We’d love to discuss opportunities to partner on building a more inclusive workplace for your team.