As local governments begin lifting stay at home orders and more employees begin returning to the office, research points to heightened employee anxiety stemming from social unrest, COVID-19, and other economic pressures—factors that can negatively impact productivity and overall wellbeing. Inclusive organizations know the importance of acknowledging this new reality and the inherent need to create an authentic work environment that makes employees feel safe and valued. A comprehensive Diversity, Equity/Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) program is key to achieving and sustaining employee satisfaction and maintaining organizational relevance—especially in challenging times. Simply put, DEI refers to individual perceived value and inclusion within the workplace. Aside from operational DEI strategies, companies are revamping their physical space to further promote inclusivity and equality—oftentimes referred to as “universal design.” This design is adaptable to nearly everyone’s needs and abilities (mental and physical), beyond ADA and OSHA standards. It truly is an office designed for all. The universal/DEI design concept is very broad. Legal compliance requires employers to offer an environment with appropriate accommodations to allow employees with disabilities (visible or invisible) the ability to perform their job responsibilities without limitations. A universal design takes it a step further. It gives all employees flexibility and autonomy over their workspace to simulate their preferred and most productive working environment. It may encompass:
- Quiet work rooms for more introverted individuals or open layouts where extroverts may do better collaborating as part of a larger group.
- Natural light versus more dimly lit areas which may show preference for one job function over another.
- Smart desks and ergonomic furniture that allow people to customize their workspace.