This is How to Design an Accessible and Inclusive Office

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In the past, offices were generally designed for just one type of person. This was the ‘average office worker’, either male or female. Little regard was given to employees who were neurodiverse or physically handicapped. Unfortunately, that kind of approach hindered existing employees and prevented new talent from reaching their full potential.

These days, we’re better informed than ever about the importance of creating a workplace that caters to the needs of many. We also better understand that an inclusive and accessible workplace also benefits business operations in many ways. 

At Niche Projects, we love working with a wide range of people and businesses. We utilise our intimate understanding of what makes a fantastic workplace and apply that to the design and construction process. We know exactly what it takes to create a truly inclusive and accessible workplace, and we’ll take a closer look at this process below.

Firstly though, we need to answer a few important questions; what accessibility means, and how it’s beneficial in the workplace.

What is accessibility in the workplace?

Accessibility in the workplace means many things to many different people. In essence, it’s a measurement of how easily a person with a disability can operate at work. For instance, will a wheelchair user find it difficult to access parts of the office? Are certain parts of your workplace overstimulating for someone who is neurodiverse? Or will someone else find it difficult to use the doorknobs in your workplace?

When people do experience poor accessibility in your workplace, they will experience barriers that really should not be there. This then results in feeling excluded, and not being able to do their job properly. People who experience this type of exclusion find it often impacts their mental health, causing and exacerbating conditions like anxiety and depression.

That’s where the term inclusivity is also important. A truly accessible workplace will also be an inclusive workplace and will welcome all of your people with open arms. Therefore, designing an accessible and inclusive office in Sydney is essential. We’ll look at why, below.

Why is accessibility important in office design?

It is important to keep in mind that accessibility and inclusivity are essential in all parts of society, and not just the workplace. But in this article, we’ll be focusing solely on accessibility in office design and construction. So, why is it important? 

In its 2011 World Report on Disability, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that approximately 15% of the world population lives with some form of disability. This means that a large number of working adults (or those who can work but are not) are living with some kind of disability.

The unfortunate reality is that many people who are working age and have a disability, cannot operate to their full potential, even when they do have gainful employment. This is because the average workplace itself is not designed to aid people with disabilities… most offices included. The result is often lower self-esteem, poor productivity, and more unemployment among people with disabilities.

Therefore, accessibility and inclusion in the office are essential. It provides better opportunities for workers with disabilities, boosts self-esteem and productivity, and makes for a happier and more relaxed workplace for all of your people. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the benefits of inclusive office design in more detail.

Happier employees

Employee happiness is one of the most important considerations when designing and building an office. The way your office is designed has a huge impact on the happiness of your people. Therefore, you should be doing all you can to create a workplace that fosters happy, relaxed workers. Coincidentally, accessible office design includes many factors that create a happier environment for employees who are both able and have a disability.

Inclusivity and socialisation

We mentioned earlier that a truly accessible workplace is also an inclusive one. And an inclusive office comes with huge benefits for your people and your business. People are happier, socialise better, are more productive, and are more creative, in an office environment that fosters inclusivity among its people.

Reputation

Reputation means a lot these days, particularly in a competitive industry. The way you design your office and the space you provide for your people can have a direct impact on your standing in your field. Creating an inclusive office environment will impress the people that matter, like clients and customers. And in the end, that means an improved reputation and more business.

Bringing in new talent

Every business needs fresh talent at regular intervals. If you can’t attract the best, you’ll be doing your organisation a disservice. Unfortunately, in the past, many businesses have lost out on fantastic talent because they haven’t provided accessible and inclusive workplaces for people with disabilities. Therefore, doing so opens up your workplace to a whole pool of talent, and continues to impress existing talent and other prospective employees.

This is how to design an inclusive and accessible office

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of inclusive and accessible office design, we’ll take a look at the elements you can incorporate into your Sydney office fit-out.

Be adaptable and flexible

Flexibility and adaptability should be present in every workplace. A flexible approach to your office design means optimising your layout for agility, and being ready to adapt and shift whenever necessary. It also means creating different, flexible working areas for your employees, because everyone does work differently.

One example of this is providing quiet working areas. If some of your workers are easily distracted or overstimulated by noise and the bustle of the normal working area, a quiet space with comfortable furniture and the right lighting is a perfect solution.

The right furniture

Ergonomic furniture is essential in any office but is even more important for employees who have a physical disability. Extra support is often required and it’s essential to ensure that your chairs and workstations are catering to the needs of all. Therefore, high-quality and easily accessible chairs are a must, with adaptable workstations like adjustable desks.

Accessibility throughout the workplace

All of your employees should be able to get around the office without difficulty. This means easily accessible walkways without excessive doors and a layout that makes it easy to access meeting rooms and amenities. If one of your employees uses a wheelchair, for example, there should be no obstacles to them accessing any parts of your office.

Reduce stress wherever possible

A relaxed workplace is a happier and more productive one because stress-free workers are much healthier in both mind and body. Creating a more relaxed workplace requires a number of things, but it is very achievable. User experience must always be positive, meaning it shouldn’t be difficult or frustrating for your people to do their job, disability or not.

Expert accessible office design in Sydney

If you’re looking for accessible office design in Sydney, we’re here to help. At Niche Projects, we’ve worked with a range of businesses in many different niches. We love crafting working environments that cater to everyone because your people deserve a great place to work.
Get in touch with Niche Projects today for a free consultation. We’d love to hear from you!