Diversity, Inclusion and Equity, Part II

The design of a workplace can be a powerful way to reinforce and support a company’s values and commitment to diversity. Workplaces that are flexible, well-connected and consider employees’ individual working styles and needs will foster a sense of belonging, and ultimately help an organization to move the dial on diversity in an inclusive and positive way.

Mayhew Interior Designers and Workplace Consultants understand how important our role is in bringing a company’s diversity strategies to life.

It is an intensely collaborative process, and one that relies on getting inside a business and finding out what makes their employees tick. The involvement of groups that might not traditionally be included in a design and planning process can make an impactful difference to the end result.

As Interior Designers and Workplace Consultants, we are eager to have open conversations with employees across the business so we that can learn how inclusion might currently be stifled and where design could help.   To supplement open conversations, we encourage the collection of employee feedback and input via surveys to enhance our understanding.

Interestingly, about 10 percent of the feedback we get from employees will be regarding the actual space, whereas the other 90 percent will relate to topics like culture, working styles and leadership

all of which are fundamental to fully understanding the people for whom we are designing.

At the consultation stage, the biggest challenge lies in ensuring all employees feel that they are being heard. Even when we work hard to listen, be open-minded and ask the right questions, creating a platform where all team members feel comfortable to share their views can be difficult, particularly given that we are external consultants.

If we based design decisions purely on the views of those who are vocal and speak up in an open forum, we’d end up only reflecting the voices of extroversion. From a design perspective, this may mean we end up with an overabundance of collaborative and social spaces, and a lack of quiet spaces for those who may work better in a more shielded environment.

As Interior Designers and Workplace Consultants, we must ensure we aren’t making preconceived judgments about what will be required to support particular groups in a workplace – we want to listen first and carefully consider all views.

In the current gender and identity landscape, gender-conscious design is also very important. We have this wonderful opportunity to stamp out gender stereotypes within a workplace by ensuring that terminology, as an example, is employed appropriately.

We at Mayhew are careful not to make decisions purely based on breakdowns of employees’ gender, race, sexuality, and socio-economic status. This is ill-advised and short-sighted, as this approach can easily reinforce biased stereotypes.

In reality, peoples’ preferences in the workplace vary much more widely than these overarching categories – they can be related to temperature, light, or acoustics, for example, which can differ for an individual across the day and week.

Further, not everyone recharges in the same way at work; some individuals recharge in a space that welcomes interaction with other people, while others seek quiet and reflective spaces that allow thoughts to incubate and unwind. This means that there isn’t one dedicated typology or space that can serve and support every employee for when they need a break or time-out.

This consultation might sound laborious and time-consuming, but it’s a fundamental part of the process to ensure that you create a workplace that works for everyone. When you speak to people across the business, you can get to the bottom of issues like accessibility and mobility restrictions they might face, for example – a personal pain point that might not have been recorded elsewhere.

We often see that when specific requirements of employees are not incorporated into design decisions, the result means both collaborative and quiet spaces are underutilized or not used at all. This usually isn’t because they are not required, it’s just that they were needed in a different form.

While there’s still plenty of work to do, it’s clear that the days of diversity being a one-time ‘check box’ or HR topic are thankfully over.

More and more business leaders are recognizing that for their diversity and inclusion strategies to make a true impact, they must be intricately woven through every aspect of their corporate infrastructure. This is evidenced by many leading brands and companies looking to ensure that their business strategies are reflected in their physical workplace environment.

Of course, one of the most powerful ways for us to reflect diversity in our work is to reflect diversity in our own teams. So much of our thinking in our subconscious mind is based on implicant and unconscious biases, which is why being surrounded by a diverse group of colleagues will ultimately lead to stronger results; we cannot expect to create innovative work if our own teams are homogenous in their composition.

As Mayhew Designers, it’s exciting to know that we have the privilege and opportunity to shape a company’s approach to diversity, and by doing so, are contributing to a more equal, inclusive, and cohesive society. Expert consultation is key to inclusive workplace design, and close attention must be paid to those most likely to be overlooked.

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About Mayhew:

Mayhew specializes in office interior design and workplace branding. We work with our clients to maximize their investment in technology, process and people by leveraging their investment in space. Combining smart workspace planning with the right office furniture will contribute directly to your business results.