Most modern workplaces have implemented policies about equality to ensure that each employee has access to the same resources and opportunities without discrimination. But how can you take equality further, beyond checking off a “diversity” requirement? Inclusion in the workplace refers to making all employees feel welcome and valued, regardless of their individual differences.
An inclusive workplace cultivates an environment in which people feel included by acknowledging, welcoming, and accepting different approaches, styles, perspectives, and experiences regardless of each person’s background. There are many tangible ways to make your company a more inclusive workplace by addressing racism, sexism, and other discriminatory problems, choosing the right mental health benefits, enhancing the accessibility of your office, addressing leadership styles, and more. Below are tips for creating a more inclusive workplace.
Why is Inclusion so Crucial in the Workplace?
Workplaces with an inclusive culture have experienced higher productivity, retention, engagement, morale, and innovation from their employees. Companies that actively mitigate the impacts of oppression and support employees physically, mentally, and emotionally see a positive return. Studies show that more diverse companies have increased revenue, and diverse teams are better at decision-making.
Inclusion also leads to workplace innovation. Deloitte research reports that when workplaces welcome and embrace employees with a wide variety of lived experiences, it fosters a sense of innovative thinking. Employees can work together to generate new ideas, ultimately feeling empowered in their work.
How to Create an Inclusive Workplace
- Connect with your staff – Modern Health's Modern Belonging Playbook can help you create a judgment-free space where employees feel comfortable sharing their experiences and feelings. Establishing a sense of empathy and connection is critical for making progress towards inclusion because it affects whether individuals or organizations take action to build and uphold an inclusive culture.
- Encourage leaders to promote inclusion - Keep an open mind and be willing to try new things when creating an inclusive work culture. Deloitte studies show that when leadership, including senior executives or managers, set an example to promote inclusion, it can increase employees' overall feelings of fairness, respect, value, and belonging by 70%. A commitment to courage and curiosity about diversity and inclusion authentically communicated can mean a lot in establishing a sense of integrity.
- Make sure your employees' differences are supported and celebrated – Bring an element of joy to your focus on inclusion by ensuring that employee differences are celebrated. The key to creating a feeling of inclusion goes beyond checking off a “diversity” checkbox, and it should embrace the authentic lived experience of your team. Ask employees which holidays are most important to them to celebrate, share culturally important foods or meals, provide space for prayer or meditation in your office, and encourage culturally inclusive clothing and hairstyles in your workplace.
- Ensure that your workplace is accessible – When working on improving inclusivity at work, it’s essential to consider not only the emotional aspect of your space but also the physical space. Although physical accessibility within the workplace has improved for employees with disabilities, it’s important to prioritize accessibility updates since in 2020 36% of all discrimination charges were related to disability discrimination. For your space, make sure doors are at least 36 inches wide to accommodate wheelchair access and that there are accessible restrooms, water access, and ramps. Make sure there is seating without armrests that are stable for folks of all sizes. For recruiting strategies, ensure your applications are in formats accessible to people with all disabilities and provide reasonable accommodations that qualified applicants would need in competing for the job. Consider also attending job fairs that focus on inclusion.
- Rethink inclusion in meetings – Actionable strategies to enhance inclusion include addressing personal attitudes, informal cultural norms, and institutional policies. Meetings are an excellent opportunity for leaders to address these facets and improve inclusion. Make sure accessibility is the focus for all meetings, and share a clear outline and expected involvement of employees before events, so employees with anxiety or chronic health concerns can make a self-care plan so they can show up fully to the meeting. Be aware of indirect racism and have an established plan for handling microaggressions from employees or leadership.
- Set up employee resource groups – Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are “voluntary, employee-led groups made up of individuals who join together based on common interests, backgrounds, or demographic factors such as gender, race, or ethnicity.” These groups provide safe places for employees to meet, support each other, and talk about issues related to oppression or the stigma they face. These resource groups help create a clear space for experienced and new employees from traditionally underrepresented groups to come together and build community. Leadership should also create opportunities for the feedback and ideas generated in ERGs to be implemented into policies and development. At Modern Health, we believe in the power of community. That's why we offer Circles, which are led by therapists and coaches who specialize in the areas they support. Circles are designed to be spaces where employees can share openly and build relationships with others who understand their unique experiences. If you're interested in learning more about Circles, we encourage you to reach out to our team. We're here to support you every step of the way.
- Be a voice for inclusion – Formalizing your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in a company policy is an essential way to ensure that employees know your organization’s stance on these issues. The Ontario Human Rights Commission states, “Anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies make it clear that harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated.” Policies should be easily accessible through intranet sites or all staff communications and should set out roles and responsibilities for compliance. Having clear communication will help employees understand boundaries about inappropriate behavior and will also help show that these issues are taken seriously.
- Make your email signature pronoun-friendly – A small way to make a big impact is by updating your email signature with your preferred pronouns. This sends a message of allyship and can normalize including pronouns in signatures, making it less daunting for others to do the same. Pronouns are often left out of business interactions because there is an assumed knowledge of someone’s gender, but this can be harmful to those who don’t identify within the gender binary. By normalizing the inclusion of pronouns in email signatures, you can create a more inclusive environment for everyone.
If you're looking to create a more inclusive environment, reach out to one of our experts today to schedule a demo. Our team can help you implement strategies for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. By taking action on these issues, you can create a more positive and productive work environment for everyone.