Thought Leadership

Is the industry at risk of missing the opportunity to build an inclusive workplace?

For National Inclusion Week industry leaders consider how to build a more inclusive workplace

Georgie Moreton

Assistant Editor, BITE

Share


The Coronavirus pandemic underlined that many of the barriers to flexible working were entirely imagined; necessity was the driver of a phenomenal workplace shift. Even prior to the pandemic inclusivity had risen up the business agenda, but there remains a long way to go before the industry is truly accessible to all. Many believe that it is essential for the industry to continue work toward greater inclusivity, as the best work is the result of diverse thinking which comes as the result of a team built up of people from all walks of life. 

To create an inclusive team, businesses need to work on creating an environment that is welcoming to all where creativity can thrive. For if you cannot bring your full self to work, energy is spent on masking who you are that could be better spent elsewhere. 

Setting up an inclusive workforce looks different for everyone, it’s important to take into account the needs of each individual be that accessible office space, flexible schedules for those with caring commitments, menopause policies and more. The pandemic proved that flexible working is possible yet the fact remains that many leaders seek the comfort of what they perceive to be ‘business as normal’. 

For creativity to thrive and to ensure the well-being of employees, people deserve the ability to access whatever they need to do their job. With this in mind to mark Inclusion Week, we asked industry leaders whether this ongoing fixation on where staff work means the industry is at risk of missing this once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a truly inclusive workplace.

Annie Gallimore

Annie Gallimore.jpg

Managing Director

ACNE London

It all comes down to trust. Three key members of our 30-strong team live across the UK, miles away from our physical office in London. Enabling flexibility has ensured we’ve kept this talent and we can now acquire new talent, as we grow, from further afield. This is essential for diversity of experience and therefore thinking as a creative business. Having bodies physically next to one another does not account for true inclusion.

Making this work comes from intricate communication and organisation, and of course trust. And in our day-to-day activities, we abide by this. In the run-up to pitches, we ensure there’s a pitch lead who works through a detailed plan of when everyone needs to be together vs working independently. It’s this planning which allows for team inclusion regardless of where people are based.

Of course, we still love to meet up as a full team in person weekly but taking the pressure off employees to be physically present when they don’t need to be, has meant in turn our team is more relaxed and feels included because their needs have been listened to.

Jacquie Leitch

Jacquie Leitch (Employee Experience Strategy Director).jpeg

Employee Experience Strategy Director

Zone

If you focus solely on the ‘where’, you are missing out on the ‘who’, ‘when’, and ‘how’, which is key to effective inclusive thinking. The culture of work is now incredibly multidimensional — with different mindsets, approaches, and solutions all at play. These are complex variables, but with proper thinking and good facilitation, it means we can start to find effective solutions that place human centricity and inclusivity over the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. This means tangible changes, such as shifting workplace etiquettes both online and offline, varying the social calendars, and understanding what people value and why in terms of flexibility and fulfilment. We must also consider creating a richer, future-focused experience. There is no place for old-fashioned thinking, so the emphasis must be on employee and prospective-employee experience, making transformational changes to establish a company that is as inclusive as possible with a real sense of purpose. If companies can create and maintain good and inclusive culture now, it's brand collateral for the future. 

Rania Robinson

Rania 10.jpg

CEO

Quiet Storm

Commuting to an office 5 days a week excludes many people from jobs they’re capable and willing to do. While there’s been a desire by some to return to ‘business as usual’ post-pandemic, we should embrace the positives that arose from widespread remote working as this has been in many ways a major step toward creating more inclusive organisations. 

Remote or hybrid working supports groups who face barriers such as those with primary family care responsibilities (mainly women), people with physical or mental health challenges, and people facing economic living limitations. It allows greater flexibility for working parents, is logistically accessible to individuals with physical disabilities (the UK disability employment gap is currently 28.4%), and doesn’t constrict those who may not be able to afford to live in or commute to a city centre.

With regular communication, clear expectations and support systems, hybrid remote work can increase employee wellbeing, improve workforce productivity, and decrease the carbon footprint of commuting.

Ed Fraser

Edward Fraser_Headshot.jpg

Managing Director

The Tree

The focus for any manager should be to attract, support and retain a diverse and talented workforce. This has been echoed by many employees who want to be a part of a ‘reconnected’ workplace, similar to that of the old style of working.

Employers therefore have a responsibility to incentivise people to come back to the office by offering a clear value exchange, one that makes the office environment attractive. It’s important to benchmark your businesses efforts against other agencies to ensure that you’re offering the best possible environment that enriches and empowers your workforce. The office shouldn’t be an inconvenience, and by ensuring that we have equitable inclusion, we can build a culture that champions the diversity that makes each of us special.

Related Tags

Inclusion workplace