Inclusive office design desirable for 59% of the workforce

As we move into 2023, creating work spaces that are suited for the needs of a diverse range of people is now a guiding principle for many offices. We need to consider factors such as disability, mental health conditions, gender diversity, work styles, and much more.

To succeed in the future, the workplace will now need to attract and retain a varied workforce with differing requirements. This article, from Arc Business Interiors, will take a closer look at why inclusive office design is the way forward.

Changes to principles and priorities

The post-pandemic world has changed our priorities and principles when it comes to what is expected from the working environment. Wellbeing, flexibility and inclusivity have been pushed to the forefront of office design. This has highlighted the need for an office to become a place that supports everyone’s productivity, work style and comfort – including those from diverse backgrounds or those with disabilities, neurological differences, and mental health conditions.

The UK Workplace Survey 2020, performed by Gensler, concluded that two thirds of professionals wanted hybrid working as the norm thanks to its flexibility. Two years on, and this need and desire for flexibility has only grown even stronger in the post-pandemic world.

Furthermore, according to a survey by Drewberry Insurance, returning to the office has positively affected employees’ mental health and productivity, with 23% saying they felt an improvement upon moving back to the office. This shows that even though workers have enjoyed the flexibility that hybrid working has afforded them, they are appreciating once again the benefits of reconnecting with the office.

When the respondents were asked why they felt their mental health had improved since returning to the office, 74% said it was due to being back around their co-workers – highlighting a need for areas where sociability can be encouraged and enjoyed.

What is inclusive office design?

Inclusivity is making sure everyone is given the same opportunities and options. Recent surveys suggest that 59% of UK workforce would consider or have left a job due to a lack of inclusive company culture or facilities.

In relation to office design, this means creating a space that will benefit, engage and support all types of people.

Inclusive office design should also recognise the fact that every employee is different and will work better under different conditions – establishing a workplace that acknowledges and caters to that is a key part of inclusive design.

Visible and invisible disability

The World Bank estimates that over one billion people worldwide live with some form of disability. It can therefore be naturally concluded that a significant portion of our workforce will be experiencing disability. However, not all conditions are visible. Hidden conditions or invisible disabilities are just as impactful to everyday life and must also be accommodated.

For some, this will mean that private areas are more important than social or collaborative spaces – or vice versa – and, as such, a flexible office that provides both will ensure everyone will be able to adapt to their working style. For others, hybrid working grants superb flexibility to work from home or in the office to suit their needs on a particular day.

Facilities for all

As we become more aware of the gender diversity prevalent in our population, it’s important that everyone at work feels comfortable. Gender neutral toilet facilities are one way of making everyone feel their needs are being accommodated and that their identities are respected. Wheelchair accessible lavatories are also an essential facility that should be implemented.

Outside of functional needs, think about the other facilities you provide such as games rooms, social spaces and gyms. Has the design been thought through to accommodate everyone’s physical needs? Are there enough spaces for a quiet breather? And when we recall the fact that seeing others was the main reason for the improvement of mental health upon return to the office post-Covid, are there enough places for people to come together to be social? Arc Business Interiors can guide companies towards creating a flawless, functional space that works for your post-Covid needs today and long into the future.

Ease of mobility

A truly inclusive workspace will need to ensure that everyone is granted the same ease of movement. This means accommodating for those with physical disabilities or mobility issues. Ensure that ramps and lifts are installed accordingly, as well as designing walkways that are wide enough for wheelchairs to travel without difficulty.

You may also wish to provide standing desk options or breakout zones to encourage movement and better physical health for all, including for those with hidden conditions. Arc Business Interiors design fully functional spaces to suit the specifications of every company, encompassing space planning, establishment of comfortable breakout zones, and furniture to complement your branding.

Creating a comfortable environment

Our environment has a big effect on productivity, focus and mental wellbeing. Poor lighting, ventilation and soundproofing can negatively affect employees, so it’s important that a design takes these features into account.  Soundproofing barriers, excellent lighting design and biophilic elements are just some ways of ensuring a comfortable environment for all.

Spaces for every working style

Some people have their best ideas while in conversation with others, while some prefer quiet reflection. As such, designing a space to accommodate different people’s working styles and neurological differences is highly important.

Breakout zones, private pods and meeting rooms, and can all play a part in catering for every workstyle and social need. Some workplaces have even gone as far as to introduce meditation rooms or sleep pods to give their workforce every opportunity to look after their emotional and mental health.

Whatever your design plans for the future, remember that inclusivity is the way forward.