When you think of inclusivity, what springs to mind?
Is it ensuring that you have equal progression paths for men and women in your organisation?
Or, is it providing sanitary products in the women’s bathroom or increasing paternity for fathers?
The truth is, inclusivity is all of these things (and more). It’s so multifaceted that often organisations don’t know where to start, leaving them paralysed with what element of inclusivity should be tackled first.
A great starting point is looking at the infrastructure of your office (and hybrid/remote working policies) and tackling accessibility first.
We often don’t think of how accessible our workplaces are for people with disabilities of all kinds. And, there are a lot of invisible disabilities which make it ten times harder for individuals to thrive in an office or even remote setting. There are many things to keep in mind: physical ailments, mental health, people in wheelchairs/can't get around as easily, or, they may be partially or completely blind or deaf.
How can you tackle inclusivity from an accessibility lens?
Look at the obvious physical things in the office that you can change:
- Lift or escalator access: Depending on whether you’re in a rented office space or you’re part of a co-working group, lift or escalator access may not be available in your building. Now, the solution isn’t to immediately move offices - instead, find out your options with your office space provider and go from there.
- Accessibility toilets: Ensuring that there are handles for those with physical impairments or disabilities.
- Hot desk or fixed desk: Although hot desking can be a great way of integrating members of staff with one another (especially in a larger office) it can be difficult for those with disabilities or mobility issues to consistently do this - or even do this at all. Making hot desking optional can help to aid this, instead of a culture that is rooted in consistent hos desking.
Now, think about invisible disabilities
Physical disabilities we are more well-versed with because the solutions enable us to see access become available for these individuals. But, what about invisible disabilities? This can range from mobility issues caused by inflammatory or autoimmune diseases, through to epilepsy, mental health issues, and other cognitive disorders.
To try and tackle all of these at once is physically impossible, and it would be incorrect to assume what invisible disabilities you have within your organisation - as you simply wouldn’t be able to cater for all of them. Instead, focusing on understanding what invisible disabilities are in your organisation is a better first step to take - then, you can create solutions that will directly impact those who need them.
Ensure it’s confidential and respectful
Understand that not everybody will be open about the type of invisible disability they have, and don’t assume that simply asking will gauge an honest response.
Although this may work for some employees, we recommend using confidential methods such as surveys or anonymous tip boxes to gauge who has an invisible disability, what it is, and then create a solution from there.
Take action and be honest with timelines
Creating an inclusive environment isn’t going to happen overnight, and, forcing this isn’t going to work, either. Instead, focus on small incremental changes that you can make which will directly impact those within your organisation first.
Then, you can look at wider strategies and initiatives to ensure that you are continuously working to have an inclusive environment as time progresses.