At WeWork, we recognize all of our employees and members are multifaceted. We believe inclusion happens when people feel comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work. A thoughtfully designed office further enables inclusion. Inclusive spaces take into account our unique needs, regardless of our background, color, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or ableness.
But how can we ensure that we are creating an inclusive community? Here are my top five tips for creating a workspace that is as inclusive as possible.
1. Conference rooms
Since some of us are working from the office, and others from home, we should be inclusive in our behaviors. That means we must understand how colleagues with varied abilities are able to collaborate with team members, and we must be thoughtful about how to engage employees as they work in different spaces in many locations.
Thoughtful engagement can result from small shifts in our behaviors. If you’re sitting in a conference room when presenting to a group of people, and another group is online, use your laptop rather than a large screen in the room. That way, those who may be hard of hearing can more easily read lips, see facial expressions, access other nonverbal cues, and therefore can more fully participate.
2. Prayer and meditation rooms
After months of working from home, people were able to pray and meditate in the comfort of their own safe spaces at home. When they return to the office, a space that is inclusive will offer them the same amenity.
At WeWork, we have dedicated spaces for prayer and meditation. But if you don’t have a dedicated space already, you can create one. Just take an office, move all your furniture to the side, and create an open space that allows employees to take some time out of their day for prayer and meditation.
3. Gender-neutral restrooms
For our coworkers who identify as nonbinary, the ability to use a gender-neutral restroom can feel like a relief. Having these restrooms ensures that everyone feels included and comfortable in the workplace.
4. Nursing mothers’ rooms
Nursing mothers’ rooms offer mothers a quiet, safe space to pump while they’re nursing. It’s important for them to have access to a bathroom and ample storage (for their bottles and bags).
Nursing mothers’ rooms in certain WeWork spaces have amenities like refrigerators, storage areas, wipes, hand sanitizing stations, and touchless faucets and soap dispensers. On the newly launched WeWork On Demand app, we made it easy for our members to sort by locations that have nursing mothers’ rooms and other amenities to help ease the transition of returning to work after maternity leave.
5. Rest and recharge spaces
We all need to rest and recharge to make sure we have energy for our work and to avoid burnout. Having a dedicated space to do so shows employees that your company cares. This area doesn’t have to be a separate space, but it should be blocked off from common spaces so that it becomes its own area. A space with cozy seating and pillows (like these WeWork ones that encourage social distancing) provides the most comfort.
Of course, inclusion goes beyond workspaces themselves. It encompasses our behaviors within these spaces. The rules surrounding personal space have changed in this new world of work: It’s necessary to adhere to social distancing requirements in the workplace to ensure that everyone can feel safe.
We want all WeWork locations to be equal-opportunity environments. From the design of our spaces to our programming, we strive to be a place where every individual—regardless of their background, color, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or ableness—is welcomed, included, and cherished. By reimagining spaces, the spirit of community, inclusion, and welcomeness will be felt by our members and employees as they return to the workplace.
LJ Louis is the global head of talent acquisition, inclusion & diversity at WeWork. Since joining the company in 2019, she has established its Office of Inclusion and designed the company’s global inclusion & diversity strategy.