What if we told you the look and feel of your office space is one thing holding back your employees from working to their highest potential?
The colors of the paint, the setup of the cubicles, the structure of your walls, the height of your ceilings, even the lights on the ceiling. All of this can have such an unforeseen impact on your business and employees.
Don’t worry, this isn’t written for the sake of improving your #aesthetic and no, we’re not going to tell you to put another potted plant or post a painting to the walls. This is about a more groundbreaking topic in that even the biggest corporations in the world across all industries are now utilizing for the betterment of their employees’ work experience – and how your business can too. The concept we’re discussing today is called Inclusive Design.
What is Inclusive Design?
Inclusive design is the practice of intentionally including the needs of users who likely experience exclusion in many aspects of their daily lives due to being part of an oppressed group or a statistical minority. If we don’t intentionally include the risk is to unintentionally exclude. – Vale Querini, careerfoundry
The key to making this work is making it a collaborative effort between the employees, designers, and their team. It has to be planned well in advance and make sure it doesn’t outwardly single anyone out. Efficient, subtle, and welcoming is the name of the game. It has to create a comfortable experience for everyone involved, especially neurodivergent employees who can face a plethora of challenges in the traditional workplace.
What challenges do Neurodivergent people face in the workplace?
Neurodiversity can be defined as the “individual differences in brain functioning regarded as normal variations within the human population.” Neurodiversity is often used as an umbrella term including such conditions as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Tourette syndrome, and ones adversely affected by specific seasonal disorders, among others. For comparison, just as the US Census Bureau estimates that 20 percent of the population has some form of disability, approximately 15-20 percent of people are considered neuro diverse.
Michael Perry, AIA (follow him on LinkedIn)
According to Kay Sargent at workdesign.com, here are some of challenges faced in the workplace by neurodivergent individuals:
- Distractions – In addition to the daily distractions we all are faced with, such as the pings of the notifications on our phones, thin walls that permit you to hear what’s being said across the room.
- Sensory Stimulation– sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), is the inability to tune out the noise of some everyday work environments, and this is one of the ways neurodivergent tendencies can present itself. Sensory cues can become easily overwhelming, so make sure to have a space where you can control sensory stimulation.
- Wayfinding– Wayfinding refers to information systems that guide people through a physical environment and enhance their understanding and experience of the space. Many people with neurodivergent conditions need and thrive on repetition, predictability, and clear boundaries to feel ‘safe’ and in ‘control’. The more complicated architectural environments become, the more visual cues people will need. This means placing more maps, directions, and symbols to help guide them.
Accessibility is really about customization. There’s something in there that can benefit everyone. Regardless of whether or not you self-identify as someone who needs accessibility, it can really be about productivity or simplicity, how you use your technology in your daily life. — Apple
Ways to implement Inclusive Design in the Workplace for Digital Companies
Inclusive Design as a concept is a lot more than actual workspaces, it definitely includes online digital workspaces and products as well, and for digital spaces it’s all about utilizing Accessibility and Inclusivity to its highest capacity for the users.
Here are several ways Goran Paun of entrepreneur.com suggests we can implement inclusive design in an online space that increases reach and impact for any online brand or business.
- Icons and microinteractions that are engaging without being dependent on the quality of a user’s internet speeds and won’t interfere with a device’s or system’s memory.
- Stock images or photography that express racial and gender diversity,
- Closed captions on videos for the hearing impaired as well as those whose devices might not support effective audio.
- Color contrast and readable font size/type for visually impaired users.
- Gender-neutral language
- Language that is created with the most salient points of information prioritized and plain-language writing standards that users can easily understand, regardless of cognitive ability.
- Consistent branding and navigational attributes to improve the intuitive user interface of a site and create a clearer, more impactful communication of the brand’s identity while encouraging the user to explore the site more.
- Diverse User testing done with a diverse audience and specific persona spectrums in mind. A spectrum of this nature can take into account the senses of touch, feel, sight and sound. Moreover, it can account for a variety of backgrounds, races and gender identities to ensure the message is received properly.
Overall, the Inclusive Design is not only morally essential for every company to look into, but it allows for the barriers to come down and for all people regardless of race, ability, age, neurodiversity, socioeconomic status, and culture to feel included and excel in their workplace. And if that wasn’t enough, inclusive companies are 1.7 times more motivated and 120% more likely to hit financial goals. Here at Magical Teams, this is what we’re all about.
If you would like to help even further with the movement to encourage neurodiversity in hiring practices all around, consider filling out our NIIH survey.
Once you do, you’ll receive a copy of the results of our white paper with the research you helped contribute to. In addition to that, you’ll also receive a link to our live Neurodiversity Inclusion in Hiring Summit where you can watch a panel of professional guest speakers speak. If you can’t make it, don’t worry! You’ll receive a link to the recording.
Now, what steps will you take today towards Inclusive Design?
Bastian, Joseph F. “Hyper Stimulation in the Workplace: The Different Ways Creative People Think.” Dbusiness.com, DBusiness Magazine, 8 Aug. 2014, https://www.dbusiness.com/business/blog-hyper-stimulation-in-the-workplace-the-different-ways-creative-people-think/.
Napell, Gail. “Why Inclusive Design Is a Critical Advantage in the War for Talent.” Gensler, 2 Dec. 2021, https://www.gensler.com/blog/why-inclusive-design-is-an-advantage-in-the-war-for-talent.
Sargent, Kay. “Designing For Neurodiversity And Inclusion.” Workdesign.com, Workspace Design Magazine, LLC , 2020, https://www.workdesign.com/2019/12/designing-for-neurodiversity-and-inclusion/.
Paun, Goran. “Inclusion and Accessibility in the Digital Space.” Entrepreneur.com, Entrepreneur Media, Inc. , 6 May 2022, https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/423960.
Perry, Michael. “Addressing Neurodiversity through Universal Design.” LinkedIn, 10 Feb. 2021, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/addressing-neurodiversity-through-universal-design-michael-perry/.
Perry, Nick. “20 Diversity in the Workplace Statistics to Know for 2021.” Fundera.com, Fundera, Inc. , 16 Dec. 2020, https://www.fundera.com/resources/diversity-in-the-workplace-statistics#sources.
Querini, Vale. “What Is Inclusive Design? A Beginner’s Guide.” Careerfoundry.com, CareerFoundry, 23 Nov. 2021, https://careerfoundry.com/en/blog/ux-design/beginners-guide-inclusive-design/.
“What Is Wayfinding?” Segd.org, Society for Experiential Graphic Design, https://segd.org/what-wayfinding.