Why Design an Inclusive Office?​

June 7, 2024 thehrobserver-hrobserver-inclusiveoffice

Designing an inclusive workplace not only attracts high-quality talent from diverse backgrounds but also fosters innovation and objective decision-making by challenging unconscious biases.

While managing a heterogeneous team is more complex, businesses should prioritise inclusivity at all levels, from leadership to entry-level roles, say experts in the field. Implementing cultural training and unbiased recruitment practices is part of it that helps create a genuinely impactful and diverse organisational culture; but also designing an inclusive office.

“Designing an inclusive workplace has several merits. It brings in high-quality talent from different backgrounds. A diverse way of thinking and problem-solving in employees fosters innovative ideas across the board,” said Nikhil Nanda, Director of Innovations Group, to The HR Observer.

People from similar backgrounds often tend to have unconscious biases. That is why, building a heterogeneous team ensures these biases are challenged, making decision-making more factual and objective.

“Simple changes like having your recruitment ads feature individuals from diverse backgrounds can have a big impact too. Moreover, using tech and AI in recruitment can also remove some of the hiring biases that humans may have,” Nanda added.

A study by Business Name Generator (BNG) reveals that the UAE, a business hub, has employees averaging 52.6 paid work hours per week. This means that workers in the Emirates spend roughly 10.52 hours a day at their jobs, accounting for nearly 44% of their time.

“It is important to meticulously analyse the workspace, comprehend the responsibilities of the employees, and design furniture tailored to fit their needs and budget,” said Irfan Mohammed Ali, General Manager of Centro Mobili, an expert in office design. Ali explains that to design an inclusive office, they ask: “Is this the most suitable solution for those working in this room or at this workstation?”

Handling a heterogeneous team is tougher than managing a team of like-minded people. Instead of viewing inclusivity as a good-to-have feature in the HR handbook, businesses should focus on making a real impact, which includes being inclusive from the leadership level to blue-collar roles in the organisation.

Providing cultural training during employee onboarding can make employees more aware and sensitive, expert say, that is while ensuring that the office itself is inclusive and encouraging.

Shwan Alhashimi, Managing Director and Founder of Archiplexus, said that an inclusive environment prioritises accessibility, diversity, equity, and emotional intelligence for all individuals, regardless of their background, abilities, or needs. Inclusivity is an intrinsic part of the design process.

At the heart of every inclusive design is accessibility, ensuring that physical spaces are navigable for individuals with disabilities through features like ramps, lifts, and accessible restroom facilities.

Alhashimi explains that companies can enhance accessibility by incorporating state-of-the-art technology, making every element within the space as user-friendly as possible. Promoting fairness and equal opportunities for all, regardless of background, is another cornerstone of inclusive design.

“By embedding inclusivity into the design process from the beginning, businesses can create environments that foster creativity, collaboration, and well-being for all individuals,” he added.

Companies can use advanced design methodologies to dismantle systemic barriers, ensuring equitable access and participation, Alhashimi explains. Their approach shoud incorporate emotional intelligence to address individuals’ psychological needs, fostering environments where everyone can thrive, he adds.

Achieving true inclusivity, Alhashimi adds, requires a proactive approach, consulting diverse stakeholders to identify barriers and develop comprehensive solutions, guided by standards like the WELL Building Standard for healthier environments.

“Inclusivity is not confined to office spaces but extends to architecture, interior design, landscape, and urban environments. The journey to and from the office is an integral part of one’s daily life,” he added.


The HR Observer

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