How to Actually be Inclusive

26 September 2019 -

Everyone is Welcome SignIt’s all well and good talking the inclusive talk, but do you walk the inclusive walk?

Emily Hill

Microsoft built treehouses for its employees to encourage them to meditate so they could de-stress in fresh air; Twitter offers free yoga classes and kombucha tea; The World Wildlife Fund offers ‘Panda Fridays’ when it closes its offices and lets employees roam free. How can you learn from the inclusivity practices of these global companies?

Making Changes for Working Parents

It’s one thing to boast about inclusivity when flexible or remote working is only allowed reluctantly, but to actually shape your office layout to be inclusive? That’s an entirely different ball game – and Goldman Sachs is hitting the ball out of the park.

In their new London HQ, the world-renowned banking firm is literally building their offices around the theme of inclusivity. The office space offers an in-office creche, free childcare during school holidays, emergency healthcare cover for parents and children, and a breastfeeding room where new mothers can not only feed their children, but use a pump and store their milk in the fridge. Sally Boyle, the international head of HR at the firm told the BBC: “We've definitely seen it have an impact on retention of a group of women who wouldn't have stayed if they hadn't been able to manage that childcare in a way that they can here.”

For most companies, literally rebuilding their workspace is not a possibility – but there are changes you can make. Why not see if one room within the building can be booked for quiet time or breastfeeding instead of only being booked for meetings? Or, you could talk to new parents about remote working to see how much of their role can be done externally – and expand this to involve those with disabilities or invisible illnesses, too.

Let Your Team Relax

Creating a culture of belonging is seen as vital. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the boldest moves when it comes to inclusivity are being made in Silicon Valley; Google introduced high-tech nap pods so its employees could catch up on their sleep after research proved that napping has a beneficial effect on job performance. Research on how naps affect overall health and productivity is revealing the hidden benefits; a paper published in March 2019 found a link between midday naps and lowering blood pressure.

Some companies offer half-hour lunch breaks, others offer an hour; some organisations even work on ‘Summer hours’ where on Monday-Thursday they work for longer so that on Friday they can leave in the early afternoon. Some companies also allow employees to leave work for the day when they’ve finished their workload, instead of staying until their scheduled finish. Adjusting schedules for lunch breaks, recommended breaks from screens or for fresh air, or early finishes will not only boost employee morale, but will encourage your team to be more productive in the time they are there.

Freedom at Work

Most people you work with have hobbies and passions outside of work – so why try to keep this separate from their professional career? Some companies, such as Deloitte, offer sabbatical programmes: employees have the option of taking an unpaid one-month break for any reason, and two-to-six month sabbaticals that can be taken to pursue personal or professional growth (and still receive 40% of their salary.) For expats whose families live abroad, this could be a great way to retain their talent and motivated at work; allowing them longer periods of time to visit family or travel, or undertake a personal project, will encourage them to come back to your company instead of handing in their notice in order to have that period of time away from work.

Research produced by CMI has shown that flexible working is particularly important when it comes to inclusivity: almost half of managers surveyed said they believe that flexibility correlates to productivity. Two-thirds of managers agree that flexible working has supported their career, a figure that rises to 71% for female managers.

Inclusivity by Innovation?

One innovation that radically promotes inclusion is making do without offices entirely.

“Having struggled myself to balance a long-term health condition with traditional office hours, I wanted to create a new type of business with an environment where people were given total freedom to balance work and life commitments in a way that works for them,” explains Bobbie Hough, managing director of Hough Bellis Communications – a company without a physical office. “That means more people from all different circumstances being able to carry on doing the job they love. Three years on and we have a team all working remotely – from Edinburgh to London. Our approach involves a huge amount of trust between staff and management. Need to do the school run? No problem. Want to attend a yoga class? Why not.”

Crucially, managers need to listen to their employees in order to make their workplace as inclusive as possible, Hough concludes: “We know happy staff do great work, so we invest in ways of working that fit around their lives.”

Thinking about how else the world of work is changing? Read up on the five new skills required in the modern workplace.


Image: Unsplash

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