How Office Managers Can Promote a Culture of Inclusivity

Companies that can support diversity and inclusion will be more attractive to potential employees, especially as competition for top talent continues to rise. Today's workforce is comprised of highly talented people from countries and backgrounds across the globe. As facility manager, the decisions you make not only affect operations, they can also help promote workplace values and culture. You want your processes to be highly-effective and streamlined, while promoting a culture of respect and inclusivity. If office culture is a priority at your workplace, here are some things to take into account.

Implement universal design elements

It is difficult for people with disabilities to feel comfortable in an office that isn't designed for their specific needs. Universal design creates spaces that are usable by people regardless of physical or cognitive challenges they're facing. Wheelchair access, highly-readable signs and attention to acoustic and thermal comfort are examples of universal design elements. Spaces that use this philosophy aren't just designed for those with disabilities either—many of their principles like simplicity, flexibility and tolerance for error benefit the entire office. Facility managers should first understand the principles of universal design and then seek opportunities to make appropriate changes in their offices.

Provide flexible workspaces

Creating flexibility and opportunities for choice allows employees to customize their work environment to their specific needs throughout the day. Flexibility and customization help all workers be more productive but have an especially powerful effect on women in the office.

One way to foster an inclusive environment is through activity-based workspaces.

These areas are optimized for certain types of work like deeply focused solo tasks or collaborative brainstorming meetings. Employees can move around in the environment and find the area that suits their work best; this also helps the office to feel more dynamic and energetic, as employees won't always be static at their respective desks. Furthermore, flexible workspaces encourage interactions between staff who might otherwise rarely speak or engage, and promote a more cohesive and supportive corporate culture. A desk booking system can help you establish a more flexible workplace.

Establish protocols for conflict resolution

Having an inclusive office means allowing for conflicting opinions. Your office should embrace diversity and have a structure in place for addressing and resolving disagreements. Healthy conflict can arise from talented teams looking to present unique ideas. This type of disagreement helps companies maintain a culture of innovation and better cover any blindspots they may have. Facilitating productive conflict requires great processes and transparency. Facility managers should ensure team leaders are trained to listen and manage conflict appropriately. Highly intuitive complaint or feedback systems can also help address situations that require immediate attention, so that no one feels unsafe or invalidated in the workplace.

As facility manager, this may also mean tracking move or change requests. While there may be logistical reasons behind a request, there may also be cultural or personal reasons—for example, an employee with mobility issues may want to be closer to the washroom, or an employee may request a change if they are being treated unfairly by a peer in their department. As FM, make sure to understand how and why recurring issues are happening within the office space. A request manager can help you respond to and resolve change requests.

Assess your recruitment practices

Recruiting methods hold inherent biases—hiring choices are often made based on first impressions. These biased decisions can exclude qualified candidates because of irrelevant factors like cultural background, physical looks, gender or even the current mood of the interviewer. Effective recruitment and inclusivity thus go hand-in-hand. Failing to account for human error in recruitment means potentially missing out on the perfect hire. Facility managers can use tools like recruitment software and processes like anonymized applications to help negate some of the bias present in their hiring methods. It is important for FMs to review their processes frequently to ensure their fairness.

Article by Zoe North, OfficeSpace