Blog, Insights

Promoting Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Through Design

Mayhew understands the importance of our role in bringing a company’s diversity strategies to life. We believe that the design of a workplace can be a powerful way to support a company’s values and commitment to diversity. To foster a sense of belonging and promote diversity in an inclusive and positive way, workplaces should be flexible, well-connected, and considerate of employees’ individual working styles and needs.

As Interior Designers and Workplace Consultants, we collaborate intensively with businesses to find out what makes their employees tick. We involve groups that may not traditionally be included in the design and planning process, as their input can make a significant impact on the end result. 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.

We listen carefully to all employees and make sure that they feel heard, even when creating a platform where all team members feel comfortable sharing their views can be challenging. We avoid making preconceived judgments about what will be required to support particular groups in a workplace and carefully consider all views to ensure that we create a workplace that works for everyone.

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.

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 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. Therefore, we pay close attention to issues like temperature, light, or acoustics, which can differ for an individual across the day and week.

We also recognize that not everyone recharges in the same way at work and create spaces that cater to diverse needs. Some individuals recharge in a space that welcomes interaction with other people, while others seek quiet spaces that allow reflection. This means that there isn’t one dedicated space that can serve every employee when they need a break or time-out.

Our consultation process might sound time-consuming, but it is a fundamental part of the process to ensure that we create a workplace that works for everyone. When we speak to people across the business, we can get to the bottom of issues like accessibility and mobility restrictions that they might face.

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.

True Diversity and Inclusion Starts From Within

More business leaders are recognizing that to make a true impact with their diversity and inclusion strategies, they must weave them through every aspect of their corporate infrastructure. This is evident as many leading companies are looking to reflect their business strategies in their physical work environment.

One of the most powerful ways for us to reflect diversity in our work is in our own teams. Being surrounded by a diverse group of colleagues leads to stronger results, as much of our thinking is based on implicit and unconscious biases. We cannot expect to create innovative work if our own teams are homogenous in their composition.

As Mayhew office 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. We believe that expert consultation is key to inclusive workplace design and that we must pay close attention to those most likely to be overlooked.

Discover More