Article | Adaptive Spaces, Evolving Workforces, Future Cities

How can organisations incorporate inclusive design into their workplaces?

December 12, 2022 4 Minute Read

By Francesca Langton Kendall


Incorporating inclusive design remains a relatively low priority for office occupiers, despite a growing need for organisations to attract and retain diverse talent.

There are several factors which contribute to employees leaving their jobs, including a lack of flexibility, salary level and poor management. In addition, a hostile workplace is often cited as a primary reason that leads to attrition, specifically a lack of inclusion and respect are common deciding factors. The truth is that people don’t stay where they don’t feel they belong, and the pandemic has only magnified this.

Modern organisations are responding to this. And aside from the fact that supporting a diverse workforce is simply the right thing to do, there are also many proven business benefits.

Recent research suggests that organisations with inclusive cultures are:

  • Six times more likely to be innovative
  • Six times more likely to anticipate change and respond effectively
  • Twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets

An inclusive workplace design is one way to help a diverse workforce thrive. However, in a social sustainability survey carried out last year, only 36% of CBRE clients said that inclusive design was either “very important” or “so important that the decision would turn on it”. However, 32% felt that it was “not important at all” or even “not relevant” to real estate.

Here is a list of 8 building-related social goals. In the decisions about buildings that your organisation takes, how important are these goals typically to the decision?

Source: CBRE UK Sustainability Survey Report, November 2021

So why aren’t more organisations embracing inclusive design in their workplaces?

It seems that when something is perceived as ‘difficult’ or ‘unclear’, it appears to drop off the priority list. Research into the barriers of inclusive design found that lack of resources and guidance, lack of awareness about inclusive design, difficulty in changing the business culture, lack of government regulations, and the perception that inclusive design is expensive were the most significant barriers.

How can organisations overcome these barriers?

  1. Senior leadership buy in – the benefits of inclusion are incredibly clear. For behaviours, mindsets and values to truly change, leadership teams must lead by example. If leaders understand the benefit of initiatives before they are launched, they can be instrumental in promoting and championing these.
  2. Create a baseline – taking the time to understand the current situation can be a great first step to learn where the gaps are. Start by undertaking an assessment of where you are today by engaging with stakeholders, employee networks or hiring a specialist to do this for you.
  3. Keep up to date on new ideas – connect with local charities and organisations such as Scope and the Business Disability Forum, they have a wealth of resources that can really help to accelerate progress.
  4. Consider inclusive design throughout the entire property lifecycle – there are many opportunities to consider inclusion, not just when refurbishing an office. For example, when selecting a new office building consider its location e.g. are there accessible transport links? Is there any green space nearby?
  5. Engage a specialist consultant – inclusive design shouldn’t be daunting, but engaging an expert consultant will help you to navigate inclusive design and ensure you adhere to the latest legislation and best practice guidelines.

Get in touch with our team if you’d like to see the report and discuss our findings.