Encourage Inclusion By Shuffling the Deck Chairs

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May 21, 2019

Diversity and inclusion – We often hear these words spoken together, but they are not the same thing.

“Diversity is the mix, and inclusion is making the mix work.” – Andres Tapia

Inclusion is an organizational effort and practices in which different groups or individuals having different backgrounds are culturally and socially accepted and welcomed, and equally treated,” according to Global Diversity Practice. An inclusive workplace makes employees feel respected and valued, which contributes to a sense of belonging.

Recently we wrote about forms of diversity that are often overlooked and how they can impact your organization. In this article, we’re going to take a look at inclusion and how adjusting your office space and layout can foster an inclusive culture.

Create communal working spaces

Get up and work somewhere other than your desk and see how many people join you. Offering an alternative working space can encourage people to work alongside different co-workers, leading to inter-team collaboration, increased creativity, and comradery.

Ditch the cubicles

Cubicles, while functional, can be impersonal and off-putting to employees and office visitors. By opting for an open office design, you can foster an environment for your employees to connect with one another and build relationships with colleagues they don’t necessarily work with on a day-to-day basis. Open office design has been touted to increase collaboration, creative thinking, and innovation while reducing costs for build-out, energy savings, and office equipment. Don’t forget though, some people do appreciate their space, so if you do embrace an open office design, be sure to provide quiet spaces for those who need it.

Open layouts have been shown to hurt productivity and increase stress levels, which is why a mix of open, and quiet and private workspaces is replacing totally open floor plans. See “What a Difference a Workspace Can Make.”

Activity-based working

Activity-Based Working (ABW) environments are similar to open design spaces but convene with other task-oriented spaces, so it’s more than rows of seating. Often this is coupled with a non-assigned seating model, where workers don’t have an assigned desk. They choose where they want to work each day. Not only do agile environments greatly reduce real estate costs by maximizing space utilization and reducing footprint, but employees get to choose the space that’s best suited to their work.

Rearrange seating

While removing the walls and constraints of cubicles can foster collaboration and teamwork, rearranging seating can help people make relationships with people they wouldn’t normally work with. Put creatives next to analysts, or accountants next to salespeople. Their contrasting focuses allows employees from different departments to learn about areas of the business they otherwise may not have been exposed to, which can, in turn, make them better and more creative problem solvers.

Getting everyone in your office to feel like they’re on the same team is invaluable for building morale and fostering an inclusive culture. Encouraging people to embrace their difference, whether that’s race, gender or job function, leads to a sense of belonging that will pay dividends.

A version of this article was originally published on

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