Diversity by Design: Proactively Building Inclusive Workspaces

Team IIBP Business Psychology, General Psychology, Issue 41, Mental Health, Mental Health Champions, News Corner, Volume 4

‘If you do not intentionally, deliberately and proactively include, you will unintentionally exclude’. Jean- Baptiste.

Embracing Diversity Beyond Demographics

Diversity and inclusion extend far beyond the mere demographic composition of a workforce. They are about recognizing the individuality of each person and understanding that work ethics and styles are as diverse as the people themselves. While the discourse in the past primarily centered around physical access improvements, recent conversations are expanding to address mental health and neurological conditions (Narenthiran, 2022). This perspective represents the new frontier in the discourse on equality within the built environment.

Designing Inclusive Workplaces

Creating an inclusive workplace revolves around ensuring that all employees feel welcome and comfortable. To achieve this, it is crucial to recognize and cater to individual needs. Building a space that caters to a diverse population means addressing accessibility and usability.

1. Accessibility: Equal Opportunity in Practice True inclusivity transcends being an “equal opportunity employer” on paper; it requires concrete steps toward building a diverse workspace. This includes ensuring wheelchair accessibility, considering manual dexterity disabilities, and implementing design elements like multi-sensory alarms. Northern Trust’s workplace is a prime example, offering seamless access for wheelchair users and gender-neutral facilities, fostering true inclusivity.

2. Collaborative vs. Private Workplaces Diverse teams bring different work preferences. Some thrive on constant collaborative interaction, while others perform better in private, distractionfree environments. An inclusive workplace must cater to both styles, offering large open areas for collaboration and quiet, private sections for focused work. A great example is Reliance Brands Limited’s concept of “neighborhoods” in their workplace, seamlessly balancing openness with privacy.

3. Personalization – The Power of Individual Preferences Inclusive workplace design doesn’t stop at the larger-scale planning; it extends to personalization. Acknowledging that individuals have unique preferences, from standing desks to lighting and heating, is vital. Smart technologies and apps can empower employees to tailor their surroundings. A shining example is LinkedIn Bangalore, where employees contribute to workspace design through the Employee Design Experience (EDX) program, making their workplace feel like home.

The Power of Constraints – Microsoft’s Inclusive Design Toolkit

By designing for individuals with permanent disabilities, the benefits can extend to those with situational limitations. For example, a device designed for someone with one arm can also aid someone with a temporary wrist injury or a new parent holding an infant. Features like closed captioning initially developed for the hard of hearing community offer advantages for various scenarios, such as children learning to read and people reading in crowded airports. High-contrast screen settings, initially made for those with visual impairments, are now also being used when outdoors in bright sunlight. This concept, known as the Persona Spectrum, is at the core of the Toolkit, which maps human abilities on a spectrum, encouraging designs that benefit a broader audience. The Toolkit promotes the concept that designing with constraints in mind results in better design, ultimately benefiting everyone.

Key Challenges and the Path Forward for Diversity and Inclusion

Challenges in promoting diversity and inclusion include navigating external events like the pandemic and addressing unconscious bias, preconceived notions, and stereotypes. The rise of hybrid and flexible workspaces offers a significant opportunity to engage, develop, network, and grow diverse talent actively.

In conclusion, the benefits of inclusive workplace design go beyond mere productivity gains. It reflects a company’s commitment to its people and sends a powerful message to employees and clients. Inclusive design is not just a buzzword; it is a path to enhancing a company’s overall value by fostering individual happiness—one person at a time.


–> Narenthiran, O. P., Torero, J. L., & Woodrow, M. (2022). Inclusive Design of workspaces: Mixed methods approach to understanding users. Sustainability, 14(6), 3337. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14063337

–> Lynn M. Shore, Jeanette N. Cleveland, Diana Sanchez, Inclusive workplaces: A review and model, Human Resource Management Review, Volume 28, Issue 2, 2018, Pages 176-189, ISSN 1053-4822, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hrmr.2017.07.003.

–> Goyal, S. (2023, July 11). India Inc: The case for “Inclusion 2.0” in industry. Forbes India. https://www.forbesindia.com/blog/enterprise/india-inc-the-case-for-inclusion-2-0-in-industry/

–> Microsoft, Inclusive – Microsoft Design, https://inclusive.microsoft.design/tools-andactivities/Inclusive101Guidebook.pdf NOVEMBER 2023 PAGE | 08 A

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