Inclusive businesses get more out of their employees. But to be a truly inclusive business, it’s important not to overlook the seemingly little things that can make a big difference.
Things like unconscious biases that require significant training to overcome; creating comfortable office environments for everyone; showing respect in meetings.
Read on to discover 9 ways to build a more inclusive business in 2024, including some that you may not have considered.
Stop talking over colleagues in meetings—and call people out when they do it
Did you know women are more likely to be talked over than men in meetings?
This can be hugely off-putting for women and result in them speaking less, even if they have great ideas. It also discredits them and damages their confidence.
In your next meeting, make a tally—or use an app like Women Interrupted—to track how many times women are interrupted in meetings compared to men. You might be surprised at the results.
This happens regardless of seniority, by the way.
Don’t believe me?
Sue Montgomery, a Quebec Councilor, knitted a scarf in meetings. She used red when men spoke and green when women spoke. Most of it was red.
And when I say “most,” I mean almost all of it. (You can see the scarf here.)
If you identify as male, it’s powerful when you speak up and tell your colleagues not to interrupt others. This is especially true if the person being interrupted is female or from another underrepresented group. It shows you respect them and their ideas—and expect their colleagues to do the same.
The more people who call others out on this behavior, the more likely it is to stop. Former interrupters may even start calling others out on it, too. It can start a chain of behavior change to create a much more inclusive business.
Adjust your office temperature based on employees’ preferences, not the 1960s
Modern office temperatures are based on a study from the 1960s. Done on white men wearing woolen suits.
Not only has clothing come a long way since then, but so has the workplace.
One of the reasons I have such huge issues with office working is because of how cold I have found every single office I’ve ever worked in. The females I worked with always felt the same but were less likely to speak out—unless I instigated it—because for them it was uncomfortable. For me it was a chronic pain trigger.
The male managers in the office always insisted they were fine. Sometimes they’d find a way to accommodate or compromise, other times we were basically told to suck it up.
You’re never going to please everyone, but if more than half of your team is complaining about the office temperature, and it’s bad for people with disabilities, it’s time to do something about it. You never know how many people are suffering silently because you haven’t created an inclusive business.
Provide space and support for new mothers
Going back to work after having a baby is tough. Breastfeeding can make it even more complicated.
For mothers who are still feeding their babies breastmilk, having a safe, private space to pump at the office can make life a lot less stressful.
While the law requires this in many places, a lot of workplaces still haven’t caught up. And often won’t until someone explicitly threatens to make an issue of it.
Don’t put new moms at your organization in this position. Build a more inclusive business and give them time and space to pump before they have to ask.
Just because you don’t see something as a problem, that doesn’t mean it isn’t. (See above examples.)
Everyone experiences the world—and the workplace—differently.
So, if an employee comes to you with something, pay attention to them. Don’t dismiss their queries or concerns just because you’ve never considered something an issue before.
We’re all unique, and what impacts one person may not impact another. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem that needs solving.
Offer fidget toys
Fidget toys can help employees focus during meetings or when working on tedious tasks. They come in all shapes and sizes, from stress balls to pens to cubes.
I’ve been using fidget toys for just over a year now, often when I’m editing or on a call. They’re grounding, and help employees retain information in meetings. Allowing their use is a small way to ensure you’re cultivating an inclusive business.
Have a quiet hour
We’re constantly bombarded with notifications. It’s not great for our concentration levels or mental health. Especially if we’re doing a task that requires concentration. It can take us twenty minutes to get into a state of focus again. Is twenty minutes of quiet even possible in the modern world?
Allowing employees time and space where they can switch off and do some deep work helps them be more productive.
It also creates a calmer work environment where more focused work gets done without the added stress of constant notifications and interruptions.
Captions in meetings
Many video tools now auto-generate closed captions in real time. This can make meetings more accessible to people who are hard of hearing or who have difficulty processing auditory information.
Turning on this option supports a more inclusive business environment and ensures everyone can get the most out of meetings. And you can get the most out of them as employees.
Put the PowerPoints and GIFs away
Did you know that busy PowerPoint presentations with too many slides, or excessive GIFs, can be distracting for some neurodivergent people?
Too much visual information can lead to sensory overload. Which means any neurodivergent people watching your presentation may feel too overwhelmed to focus on what you’re actually talking about.
So if you want a more inclusive business, use slides to show your key points and avoid flashing images.
Let employees work when they’re the most productive
The traditional nine-to-five doesn’t work for everyone.
I spoke to someone the other day who wakes up at 4:30am and goes to bed at 5pm. That works for her.
I get up around 9am and start work after lunch. That works for me.
Forcing myself to do work that requires deep focus first thing in the morning makes it harder for me to concentrate and means tasks take longer.
Leaning into our most productive times helps us get more done and fulfill our potential.
These are just a handful of ways you can show employees you appreciate them, attract top talent, and truly build a more inclusive business.
If you’re looking to step up your inclusion work this year and ensure every employee is set up for success, Workrowd can help. Our all-in-one tool suite enables you to launch new inclusive business initiatives with ease, and measure the results in real-time.