A modern healthy workplace goes beyond the traditional concepts of preventing injuries or diseases. It now encompasses a variety of aspects ranging from ergonomics, to health care, to positive psychology, to community and culture.   Especially as the world market increasingly competes for quality labor, employers must treat building and maintaining a healthy workplace as integral to a sustainable business model.  A positive, safe, inclusive work space gives employers a competitive advantage in terms of productivity, public image, and profit.

Why are diversity and inclusion primary parts of a healthy workplace?  Every workplace is diverse, whether employers recognize it or not.   Each employee is unique and has an individual set of needs, skills, and attributes.  Companies who understand the human spectrum that goes hand-in-hand with being an employer will be much better positioned to set themselves up for long term success.  Being realistic and working successfully with the real human assets in the company is the only pragmatic way to fully utilize the potential of all employees. 

What is Diversity and Inclusion?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that diversity is only about race, color, religion, or gender.  The reality is that the definition of diversity is even simpler.  Diversity is anything that sets one person apart from another.  That includes where someone grew up, their socioeconomic status or background, their education, their family configuration, their political or ethical ideologies, even their opinions and methods of self-expression.

Inclusion is more of a feeling, a sense that all of the members of the group are accepted, especially for the things they cannot change about themselves or that they hold dear.   Employees who feel valued for who they are tend to participate and contribute more.  Modern corporations all attempt to outline the main tenets of their corporate cultures.  The businesses viewed as having the healthiest corporate culture are mindful of this attitude of embracing human differences. 

Fostering Diversity and Inclusion

To create an organization that cultivates inclusiveness for all kinds of employees, companies need to consider both physical spaces and business practices. 

Setting up the physical spaces where employees will work starts with practical and legal compliance considerations like handicap accessibility and ergonomics to prevent workplace fatigue.  To truly advance inclusivity in the office, structure it using the principles of universal design.  Universal design creates a comprehensive environment to be used comfortably by all people, with minimal additional adaptation needed.  The key concepts are accessibility, flexibility, simplicity, and room for error and learning.

The practices that foster diversity are the same that establish a healthy corporate culture.  Normalizing shared values, a priority placed on wellness, respect for cultural and personal beliefs, and social support help employees feel invested in both the company and the work they are doing. 

Preventing and Addressing Discrimination

Preventing people’s overt and unconscious bias from taking a toll on the environment in the workplace starts with top management waterfalling a genuine dedication to inclusivity down to every level of employee. In recent years, governments have stepped up their efforts to drive greater acceptance of employment diversity. 

Many U.S. states require employers to provide some form of discrimination training on a regular basis.  Many professionals who have to take continuing education courses to maintain their licenses have found that their licensing boards are now requiring some level of diversity and inclusion training, particularly those in the medical field.

Employers who want to remain in legal compliance and who want to get out in front of potential problems are turning to easy to access classes for employees such as sexual harassment online training and courses in understanding diversity.   

The Financial Benefits

It is true and worth acknowledging that there are many state and federal laws that require things like equal pay, a process for investigating complaints of unlawful discrimination, and reasonable accommodation for employees’ disabilities.  Failure to adhere to those laws opens a business up to litigation as well as federal, state, and even municipal fines. 

Basic compliance is the minimum.  Changing the corporate mindset from focusing on just preventing problems to the concept that excellence at inclusiveness is good for growing a business and will show dividends towards the corporate bottom line. 

An inclusive atmosphere boosts attendance, increases job satisfaction, and reduces grievances.  Links have been made to show that healthy workplaces are strongly correlated to fewer worker accidents, as well as lower levels of burnout, depression, and turnover. Every employer can see the savings in these statistics.

Word will get out.  Having a good workplace is good public relations.  A diverse team will have a wider set of resources to draw from when providing customer service.  Customers who have positive experiences will tell others.  Employees who love their workplace will tell others.  A quality workplace that takes time and effort to make employees feel appreciated and welcome is a highly attractive target for high quality job candidates.

It’s the Future

A demand for healthier, more diverse and inclusive workplaces is the new future for corporate culture and business responsibility.  Employers who don’t start learning now will quickly find themselves behind the curve and at a competitive disadvantage. Also, it’s the right thing to do.