What Does a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace Look Like?

Emerging from the pandemic, we have found that the shift to hybrid working has significantly improved our work-life balance, particularly in relation to commuting. This change has allowed us to eliminate certain stressors that were present before COVID-19, providing us with a fresh perspective on integrating work and life.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are hot topics not just in the office but at both the national political and corporate strategic levels. The workplace dialogue has expanded beyond traditional job functions (such as Activity-based-working) to encompass considerations of neurological diversity and the diverse needs of a multi-generational workforce.

While many businesses have recognized the advantages of inclusion, there remains ample room for broader thinking and the acceptance of diverse perspectives. In an increasingly complex corporate world with considerable human talent acquisition and retention challenges, neurodiverse workers are an often-overlooked talent pool waiting to be harnessed.

Many businesses have caught on to the benefits of inclusion, but there are still lots of opportunities for thinking bigger and embracing diverse ways of thinking. In a world with increasing complexity, we need a neurodiverse workforce to tackle some of these big problems of our time.

The 3 points below highlight how diversity and inclusivity shape modern workplace design:

Willis Tower Watson @ One Raffles Quay
Willis Tower Watson @ One Raffles Quay

Respecting Diverse Backgrounds Needs

During the pandemic, when daily stressors like the commute are cut, we could integrate time to work out at the gym, time for homework with the kids or time to attend to daily chores better, especially so for dual-earning families with children and the elderly. A hybrid work environment where employees can choose where, when, and how work is done. The hybrid office interior design should encompass benefits and wellness that can be found at home (e.g. nursing rooms for working mothers). It should also include the professional settings people find hard to recreate at home i.e. focus rooms and quiet desks and face-to-face camaraderie building collaborative or social settings. Formal and informal collaborative settings need to cater for technology integration that allows seamless collaboration between in-person and remote dial-ins.

beIN Sports @ Mapletree Business City II
beIN Sports @ Mapletree Business City II

Respecting Neurological Diversity

Neurodiversity at the workplace has raised awareness around people with dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders and other neurological conditions. By embracing the different workstyles and sensory challenges faced by both the neurotypical and the neurodivergent, companies acknowledge the unique perspective and abilities these people can bring, such as deep-dive, hyper-focus, and out-of-the-box approaches to problems, which often create groundbreaking solutions. Some examples of neurodivergent innovators and entrepreneurs are Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Kanye West. 

Taking into consideration sensory sensitivities to social settings and ambient factors like sounds, smells, visuals and space, companies should avoid a one-size-fits-all setting by creating varying settings. This allows employees autonomy to voluntarily move or control the settings and environment accordingly to suit their level of sensory comfort. Understanding that space and variety can come at a cost, companies can also create the variation using flexible, modular, and adaptable solutions.

By satisfying the environmental and psychological needs of their employees, businesses can retain and access a wider talent pool’s potential.

Total Café @ Fraser Tower
Scoot Office @ Changi Airport
Total Café @ Fraser Tower

Respecting a Multi-Generational Workforce

Each generation brings unique strengths, preferences, and expectations. The workplace should incorporate a mix of quiet concentration zones, collaborative spaces, break-out areas, meeting rooms and wellness spaces to be able to cater to these various needs across distinct functions, ranks and ages and the premium each generation puts on for productive and effective environmental enablers. It is important to take a comprehensive approach for the workplace to resonate with employees across multiple generations. E.g. Social breakouts and collaborative spaces for younger employees who yearn for more mentorship and leadership vs. the solo deep-thinking space required by mid-managers or leaders.

An adaptable and flexible office design can help to cater for the collaborative and social breakout settings to foster a culture of togetherness and mutual respect. 

A company can only be as good as its employees are and how they function together as a team. It is important to support the needs of the diverse population of staff to thrive together. By having an office design that addresses the needs of diverse employees and visitors, companies can attract a larger and more diverse employee pool.

At Sennex, we understand the use of office workplace design as a great physical tool for staff attraction and retention. Forward-thinking workplace design when coupled with committed leaders who drive policies and strong culture, can reap, and unlock the potentials of individuals and collectives in many folds.