Blog

Published on: 19 January 2024

Updated on: 19 January 2024

Read time: 6 minutes

Julie Hattersley

Design Director

Jo Jenkinson

Design Director

Workplaces today are more diverse than ever before. Diverse teams encompass a vibrant mix of identities, abilities, cultures, and perspectives.

However, simply bringing together a group of employees is not enough to unlock the potential of that diversity. True innovation and progress emerge through inclusion - when all team members feel welcomed, valued, and able to fully contribute their talents.

As companies increasingly recognise diversity and inclusion in the workplace as core components of both business success and ethical integrity, the onus falls on workspace decision makers to mirror these values through purposeful, enlightened office interior design.

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What is diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

Diversity refers to the makeup of a company's workforce across factors like gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability status, family structure, religious beliefs, political views, and more. While definitions vary, diversity can be summarised as the range of human differences present among groups of employees.

Meanwhile, inclusion describes company cultures and processes that ensure all employees can fully participate, grow, and thrive regardless of their background or identity. An inclusive workplace fosters a sense of belonging, where each person feels respected, safe to express divergent ideas, and able to access the same opportunities and resources as their colleagues.

True diversity paired with meaningful inclusion enables teams to harness a wealth of perspectives for stronger innovation, decision making, and service of their equally diverse customer base.

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Why is workplace diversity and inclusion Important?

With younger generations especially placing priority on locating employers who align with their values of equity and representation, constructing inclusivity in the workplace is key for talent attraction and retention.

Beyond recruitment advantages, however, weaving principles of diversity and inclusion into the fabric of an office fit out grants additional benefits:

  • Enhanced innovation and creativity: With a greater variety of voices and viewpoints represented, teams can reframe problems and devise unexpected solutions.
  • Improved understanding of users' needs: Companies better serve their customers when internal diversity reflects the real-world demographics of end users.
  • Better decision making: An inclusive workplace facilitates exchange between different groups, allowing more angles to inform determinations.
  • Increased employee satisfaction: Employees feel more motivated and engaged when they can show up authentically without compromise and participate fully in business activities or growth opportunities.


The numbers support these notions. According to Gartner research, gender diverse and inclusive teams deliver 50% higher financial returns on average than less inclusive groups.

For ethical and practical reasons alike, equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace should live at the heart of any office refurbishment.

Embracing workplace diversity and inclusion is not just a commitment to ethical integrity; it's a strategic imperative that fuels innovation, fosters authentic connections, and transforms businesses into thriving, dynamic communities where every individual's unique contribution is not only valued but essential to success.

Julie Hattersley

Design Director

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How to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace

True inclusion requires looking beyond equal opportunities and quota filling to holistic inclusion strategies that empower employees across all dimensions of diversity.

By keeping a pulse on the unique needs of different groups and individuals, companies can shape designs, policies, and programs to help encourage employees in feeling secure versus marginalised. Though every organisation's path will differ, effective starting points include:

  • Ensuring physical accessibility: Install wheelchair ramps, elevators, adjustable desks, and adequate wayfinding signage so differently abled employees can utilise all spaces. Also consider sight, hearing, and other sensory impairments. For example, braille integrated with signage can be used to ensure all users of the space can navigate the workplace comfortably.
  • Allowing workplace freedom: Let employees wear and present themselves genuinely, without pressure to conform to a standardised aesthetic.
  • Offering private rooms: New mothers may require designated nursing areas while faith practitioners may appreciate quiet rooms for rituals if unable to access places of worship during work hours.
  • Creating balanced spaces: Consider how elements like colour, lighting, textures, and materials impact the overall feel and energy of a space. Aim for a harmonious balance that allows different personality types to feel comfortable, whether that means an airy, bright aesthetic or something more muted.
  • Incorporating natural materials: Bring in design components featuring natural timber, fabrics, green space, and other organic textures that can have a grounding, calming effect for many individuals. Soft textures from woods, upholstered furniture, plants, and more create a warmer, homier environment.


By keeping diversity and inclusion principles front of mind during workplace consultancy, rather than an afterthought, companies gain the chance to intentionally construct workplaces where everyone feels comfortable being themselves. The physical environment then facilitates connections between different groups that spark innovation.

We must craft environments that celebrate individuality, understanding unique needs, and empowering every employee. By designing with intention, we ensure that our spaces not only embrace differences but actively promote a sense of belonging and shared purpose.

Jo Jenkinson

Design Director

Ways to incorporate diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Workspace decision makers wield immense power to either inhibit or enable inclusion through the layouts and attributes they approve. Seemingly minor details related to furniture, amenities, lighting, outdoor access, and beyond can disproportionately impact employee experience.

Consider how aspects like the following could better support an inclusive work environment:

Flexible Furnishings

Select height-adjustable desks and chairs alongside standing desks, stability balls, and varied seating choices. Accommodate different mobility device types and sizes as well as assistive workstation technology. The goal is giving every individual equal ability to select the workspace setup aligning best with their physical, cognitive, and social preferences and needs.

Multi-Purpose Rooms

Carve out real estate for nursing/pumping rooms, prayer and meditation spaces, sensory relief rooms, gender-neutral washrooms, and more. Though groups have particular requirements, flexible rooms ultimately serve everyone in achieving health, focus, or restoration during hectic workdays.

Biophilic Design

Integrating nature into indoor environments through living green walls, oxygenating plants, artificial skylights, natural textures and patterns, outdoor views, and fresh air access alleviates stress while improving cognitive function, absenteeism and creativity for all users regardless of background.

Inclusive Décor

As referenced above, thoughtfully curate artwork, graphics, environmental branding, and colour palettes throughout the workplace to visually represent diversity. Use wall space to showcase employees' personal photos and cultural sharing.

Adjustable Lighting Features

Ensure work areas include both ambient and task lighting that users can control across spectrum, intensity, and direction to prevent migraines, eyestrain, distorted colour perception, and other concerns tied to lighting sensitivity associated with various disabilities and neurodivergent needs.

Barrier-Free Navigation

Design wayfinding signage, staircases, corridors, exits, and flooring with versatility top of mind so those in wheelchairs, with sight disabilities, using mobility devices, deaf employees, neurodiverse individuals, and beyond can smoothly access and understand every facet of the workplace.

Conclusion

At Office Principles, we understand diversity in the workplace and craft inclusive workplaces that deliver game-changing advantages for innovation, decision quality, employee fulfilment and retention, customer understanding, and overall business performance.

Leaders cannot simply gather superficially different groups of professionals and expect synergistic benefits to spontaneously emerge. True progress relies on inclusive design - making certain people feel psychologically safe, respected, valued, and equipped to fully contribute their perspective.

Office spaces set the stage for this empowerment when designed intentionally with diversity and inclusion principles woven throughout. From furniture and layouts to lighting and outdoor access, subtle environment cues signal whether or not each employee belongs and stands to thrive as their authentic self on site.

The path to inclusion varies across organisations and industries, but begins with a commitment to celebrate each employee's identity and enable equal participation and advancement for all.

Reach out to Office Principles' experts to discuss tailoring your next office evolution to foster community over division.

Meet the Authors

Julie Hattersley

Design Director

Having worked in the Design and Build industry for almost two decades, Julie has built an illustrious portfolio that reflects talent, creativity and an effortless ability to create inspiring workplaces. Taking pride in her involvement through every step of the design process, Julie is inspired by her clients and relishes dissecting a brief to get to the essence of what will provide the end users with the best experience and improve their working days.

Jo Jenkinson

Design Director

With a passion for creating exciting and innovative designs, Jo’s is the imagination behind a rich and varied portfolio of inspirational environments, spanning commercial, retail and residential markets. Experienced in architectural design and design and build, she has worked in the office fit out industry for over ten years and has led the design on a number of multi-million pound projects.

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