Modern society always endeavors to be more equal and inclusive, so it is logical that the workplace should strive to reflect these values too.
People from any walk of life should be able to work in an environment where they are free to be themselves without fear of discrimination or bias.
Every company should encourage diversity so that such a workplace is inevitable. Property serves people of all backgrounds, who all desire similar basic comforts. But different groups have varying needs and factoring these in from the earliest possible point will mean being able to attract a more diverse workforce.
One of the main issues that come to mind when considering diversity, is gender imbalance. The property and facilities management industry is still very male dominated. There is also a universal need to encourage young women into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions. One way of tackling disparities is by having more opportunities where successful people become mentors to younger women to encourage talent into the industry.
Consciously celebrating diversity
Not a week or a month goes by without some kind of national or global theme being marked often brought to our attention by a Google Doodle. For example, Black History Month sees the awareness, promotion and celebration of black history in many public realms. Similarly, Mental Health Week or World Autism Awareness Day raises awareness of these two areas. The point is that celebrating these within an organisation will help people feel more included and it will also spread knowledge to those who do not know about these topics which could lead to more inclusive behaviour. Facilities managers can play a key role in raising diversity and inclusion awareness through communications, resources and organizing events around these themes.
Building support networks for people who are usually marginalised and who suffer in silence is a way for such people to feel more included. For example, in the UK FM industry a LGBT+ group has helped gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender workers in the profession feel more supported and raise their visibility as employees rather than feeling left out because they feel different. It has also helped workers overcome indirect prejudice.
Ensuring technology in the workplace works for those with different kinds of needs also helps improve diversity. For example, hearing loss affects nearly 11 million in the UK but a lack of knowledge of these users’ needs means they are not considered. Considering assertive listening technology in any development or refit can redress any imbalance.
Being neurodivergent refers to genetic differences in the brains of people with conditions such as, but not limited to: dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, Tourette’s and forms of autism such as Asperger’s. Workplaces are usually not designed with these people in mind. In fact, research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows that only 10 per cent of businesses consider neurodivergent people in their management strategies. Considering lighting, acoustics and storage are some ways to take the needs of these people into account.
In the next several decades increased life expectancy will mean an older workforce and the workplace must be prepared for this. The age factor is expected to affect long-term conditions, with stress on the rise, growing concern about physical and mental ill health and sickness absence set to cost businesses a lot. Putting into place ‘wellbeing’ and ‘health’ policies are a must for businesses.
These are some of the ways that diversity in the workplace can be encouraged and facilities managers can play an influential within many of them.