As globalisation, technological advancements, and the evolving workforce continue to shape the future of work, the need for organizations to maximize their recruitment and employee retention strategies is increasing. To accommodate this ongoing transformation of place, people, and culture, businesses are using inclusive office design as a tool for equality.
Inclusive office design aims to provide choice, flexibility and practicality while ensuring that no demographic is overlooked. So, here is a complete guide to designing an office space that celebrates diversity and caters to the needs of a modern workforce.
What is workplace inclusion?
Inclusion is more than simply hiring for diversity, it’s ensuring that every single employee regardless of their perspectives, beliefs, gender identity, or background etc.. feels a genuine sense of belonging in their workplace. Designing an office space that focusses on inclusion will empower employees through valuing their unique talents and embedding them firmly in company culture.
Why is inclusive office design important?
In a Deloitte survey of over 1,300 employee’s, 80% said inclusion efforts were an important factor when choosing a company to work for. But, attracting a diverse talent pool
is not the only benefit of designing an inclusive office space, it can also aid in improving employee retention, employee mental wellbeing, and productivity.
How to design an inclusive office space
Inclusive office design should focus on overall employee wellbeing, addressing physical limitations, working styles, and mental health needs. Of course, this is not to say workplaces should be intricately designed to meet every user-requirement, as this would be both an immense, and costly task. Instead, researching target groups of workforce will help make intelligent design choices based on employee demographics.
It is also important not to draw too much attention to particular groups of people, but instead use design to incorporate diversity instead of segregating it.
With these points in mind, here are a few design considerations that will help create an inclusive office space fit for the needs of a diverse workforce.
Design for accessibility
With The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), and Equality Act 2010 put in place, equal access for all is now a legal requirement in the modern workplace. However, designing a workplace that is accessible for people of all physical ability should not just be a box-ticking exercise. To be truly inclusive, it should go beyond mandatory regulations.
Many accessibility issues can be overcome with the intelligent use of ergonomic furniture, which can be easily adapted and manoeuvred to accommodate all needs. Ergonomic furniture provides comfort, flexibility, support, and safety through innovative design – allowing complete adaptability. Some examples of ergonomic furniture include:
Height adjustable desks: height-adjustable desks are perfect for the modern workplace, allowing employees to switch between sitting or standing positions when working. These desks have many benefits for both physical and mental wellbeing, but most of all offer employees the flexibility and versatility to work however they wish to. To encourage a more inclusive and healthier workspace, we recommend:
- Wolfe: The height-adjustable Wolfe desk is robust and offers maximum strength for a minimum weight. The almost inaudible motor operation ensures zero disturbance to surrounding colleagues and allows the user the option to alternate between sitting and standing whilst working.
- Flexure: This height-adjustable desk is easily adaptable with the option to adjust working positions based on different team members or work assignments. It has rounded legs and endless options for flexibility.
Ergonomic desk chairs: Similar to height adjustable desks, ergonomic desk chairs are specifically created to offer support and comfort and are innovatively designed to provide adjustable features that enable users to alter settings to suit their individual needs. We recommend:
- Webb: an all-time favourite, the Webb task chair is the perfect reliable all-rounder keeping the comfort of your workforce at the forefront. It features an ergonomic design that is both supportive and comfortable with a breathable mesh backrest and 3D armrests.
- Paxton: from the unique backrest designed to maintain the natural curvature of the spine, right through to the adjustable armrest angle and seat depth, the ergonomic Paxton chair provides optimum lumbar support so that the user can sit comfortably in the office throughout the day.
Other accessibility considerations include:
- Sensor activated doors
- Ramps or Lifts
- Handles with closed-fist policy
- Using two passing wheelchairs to measure passages
- Multi-height storage
- Power at non-fixed heights
- Free-stand laptop tables
- Tables with centred legs
Design for mental wellbeing and neurodiversity
With a diverse workforce, comes a diverse set of mental abilities, qualities, and concerns that need to be catered for in the workplace.
Neurodiversity refers to the natural variations in the human brain. It is estimated that around 1 in 7 people (more than 15% of people in the UK) are neurodivergent, meaning their brain functions, learns and processes information differently to what is considered standard or typical. Neurodivergence includes Attention Deficit disorders, Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia.
Neurodivergent individuals often bring to the workplace out-of-the-box thinking, creative solutions and more. And with such a large proportion of the UK population falling under this spectrum, it is essential for organisations to create a workplace that welcomes neurodiversity, supports mental wellbeing, and allows employees to work and achieve in their own way. That means adjusting the workplace to suit the needs of diverse thinkers.
Keep in mind, it’s also important to remember those who aren’t clinically diagnosed with a mental health problem but still want to nurture their mental wellbeing.
So, here are some ways to design an office that will support and empower neurodivergence in the workplace:
Meditation spaces: This can be accommodated by creating a multifunctional space which can be used for a variety of tasks such as lunchtime yoga sessions or private meditation. This should be a relatively minimalist setting with plenty of space for mental clarity, as well as some soft seating for relaxation and comfort.
Private spaces: Office spaces are hives of activity, which can be noisy and distracting for those who suffer from attention deficit disorders, and even for those who simply just prefer to work in quieter environments. Enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces are an effective way to address this and these typically come in the form of acoustic pods, privacy booths and shielded seating away from high traffic areas.
Rejuvenation and recreation spaces: The modern-day workplace now needs to provide purpose-built settings such as cafes, games rooms or lounges with comfortable furniture where staff can go to socialise, refuel, unwind, and destress. An effective way to provide comfort and flexibility in recreational settings is through incorporating modular seating which can be easily reconfigured to suit the changing needs of employees.
Biophilic elements: In the current urbanised world, people are often relocating to built-up cities for work, where exposure to nature is usually seen as an escape from stressful work lives, rather than a necessity that should be integrated into workspaces. Research shows that on average, people spend 90% of their lives in buildings, and in a typical office environment in the UK, up to 60% of staff don’t have sufficient access to daylight, affecting their mood and efficiency. Introducing biophilic office design. Biophilic office design takes the human need for a connection with nature and applies it to the workplace to boost productivity and wellbeing.
Design for lifestyle diversities
Inclusivity and diversity in the workplace now need to extend beyond physical and mental health conditions. Today, workplaces need to prioritize lifestyle diversities such as age, gender identity, sexuality, and religion in order to accommodate the new era of young professionals.
But how are organizations designing inclusive office spaces for lifestyle diversity?
New mother/ breastfeeding rooms: According to a study, 40% of 25-34-year-olds would like to see facilities for new mums (e.g., private spaces to express milk) in workplaces of the future. Introducing a minimal, private space which can be completely shielded and have comfortable seating is a great way to accommodate new mothers in the workplace, and provide them with complete privacy and comfort.
Gender neutral toilets: Gender neutral toilets are bathrooms which can be used by anyone, regardless of gender. While anyone can use a gender-neutral toilet, they are particularly important for trans and non-binary employees who may feel uncomfortable in or unable to use gendered bathrooms.
Create an inclusive office space with Haiken
Offering a variety of workspaces, amenity spaces, and furniture options are the most important factors in achieving a more inclusive office environment. Workplace inclusivity is going to continue to be an important component in office design, so it is best to start implementing changes now.
For more information and design tips, or to start your inclusive office design, contact the team at Haiken today.