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Via Real Business : How workplace design drives productivity for employees of all ages

There are many ways in which businesses can design their workspace to boost productivity and attract talent, while also keeping costs to a minimum. However, it’s understandable that business owners can be a little nervous about how to cater to the preferences of employees from a variety of different generations all in one space. Here are some tips to make a start…

The workspace of today has evolved far beyond the conventional office portrayed in popular culture, which are typically comprised of sterile white cubicles and grey carpet tiles. What has remained the same, however, is the desire to utilise the space to encourage productivity among employees.

Employee habits are changing, including the way they work and collaborate. With productivity levels in offices across the UK falling to an all-time low, it’s now essential for businesses to create a workspace that fosters productivity and collaboration among its employees.

How do you cater for different generations – all in one workspace?

By 2020, the global workforce is expected to be dominated by Millennials (22-37 years old) (35%) and Generation X (38-53 years old) (35%), with baby boomers (54-72 years old) accounting for 6%. With this in mind, designing workspaces to meet the needs of all generations of the workforce can be challenging, costly and time-consuming.

Avoid dangerous assumptions about certain generations

Attitudes towards work-life balance have shifted considerably over the last decade. While the assumption may be that Millennials and Generation Z employees’ value work-life balance most, research suggests 94% of baby boomers also want a flexible work schedule that provides quality of life.

Whether a business is expanding, refurbishing an existing office or relocating, flexibility must be built into the heart of every workspace. While the assumption may be that trends like hot desking embrace flexibility, research has shown that the lack of ownership of a space can make employees feel less valued as a result.

One size fits no-one

To create a productive and successful workplace, office design must move beyond generalisations and recognise that one size does not fit all. Designing an office to promote optimum efficiency is about creating the space and work environment that incorporates the right tools needed to meet the unique needs of your organisation.

As a result, businesses relocating offices to accommodate their design requirements should take into consideration how each of their employees approach their work.

Today’s employees are used to working in a variety of different spaces to suit their task. In settings where a combination of individual and collaborative work is required, activity-based working can provide far greater flexibility, while increasing productivity and collaboration.

Organisations embracing activity-based working should create versatile areas for employees to work at through the day, according to their task. This includes designated meeting areas, secluded spaces for quiet time and concentration and breakout spaces.

Breakout spaces

Introducing a designated area for employees to meet and socialise away from the main office creates a ‘home from home’ feel, while fostering a workplace culture that promotes creative thinking and employee wellbeing.

Breakout areas do not need to take up excessive space, and can be created on a low budget. Businesses can enhance their existing space by simply fitting comfortable furniture, such as sofas and tables, which work to enhance the interaction between employees and provide a space for ad-hoc meetings and brainstorming sessions.

Maximise private spaces

When relocating offices, it’s important to consider that while the open-plan workplace may work for some, there are still a substantial number of office workers across all ages that prefer private areas to maximise efficiency when working individually.

Workplaces operating within creative industries, where interaction and team-work is encouraged, are more likely to benefit from open plan offices. However, offices without private areas can be particularly problematic in workplaces that require high levels of concentration or frequent telephone contact, such as in financial, technological and contact centre environments.

Installing segregating panels on desks can reduce distractions and background noise, while also offering employees a sense of privacy. By offering this option, businesses can reap the collaborative benefits of the open plan, without sacrificing productivity.

Add some colour to the workday

More businesses are viewing their office space as a strategic component of a business plan than ever before. Colour schemes are an example of how businesses are communicating their brand values through their workspace, while leaving a lasting impression on clients.

Bright colours bring life to a workspace, whether by reinforcing your brand identity or by creating a personality, a unique feel and atmosphere for every area and space.

Under a traditional model, businesses are highly restricted in how they can design their office to communicate their brand values. Additionally, the possibility that businesses may need to expand, reduce, reallocate or relocate their workforce can be extremely costly and entirely impractical.

With flexible managed office models like Managed Office Solutions (MOS), office design is determined by the occupier and not the provider, and can be bespoke to the business’s requirements. This integrated approach manages each component of the process, while providing the expert knowledge that most organisations don’t have internally.

Via Management Training Specialists : How To Manage Diversity Effectively In The Workplace

Remember Barney?

Yes – the purple dinosaur who’s been either your own or your child’s best friend?

“Barney & Friends” is one of the finest examples of diversity that comes to mind.

With the perfect representation of all ethnicities, genders and varying age groups – Barney couldn’t really go wrong when it came to inclusion!

With organisations across the world seeking increasing global relevance, embracing and managing diversity gains tremendous importance.

So apart from engaging a heterogeneous workforce that includes all genders, employees across age groups, ethnicities and races, diversity also means inclusion of everyone so that they feel comfortable and can contribute to the success of the organisation.

Creating this heterogeneous workforce that helps to create innovative products, services and business practices that can set the organisation apart and differentiate it to create a competitive advantage.

Many countries have regulations that ensure or even demand diversity; organisations themselves have seen tremendous benefits by embracing diversity.

Here’s a quick look at some of them:

  • Innovation:
    One of the most positive effects of diversity is the boost it provides to innovation at the workplace. Diversity encourages employees to learn from others and share ideas by brainstorming and sharing experiences. It also makes them more receptive to trying out new things thus increasing the innovation and creativity at work.
  • Reduced turnover:
    Often employee conflicts with managers and colleagues lead to stress that could increase the employee turnover at the workplace. Not only does this lead to loss of productivity but increases the recruitment and training cost as well. However by ensuring inclusion the organisation can create an informal culture that in turn increases the employee loyalty and the employees’ sense of belonging in the organisation.
  • Attract top Talent:
    Firstly diversity in recruitment broadens the pool of talent that the organization can recruit from. It also helps build an employer brand that is seen as inclusive thus becoming an aspirational organisation for top talent.
  • Increased Adaptability:
    Workplace diversity can increase the organisation’s adaptability in the market as a heterogeneous employee base will ensure better understanding of consumer requirements and demands leading finally to better decisions.

Managing Diversity

While diversity provides many benefits to the organisation, its also essential for managers and employees to understand how to manage diversity to the organisation’s as well as their own benefit.

Organisations and managers alike need to consciously take steps and initiatives to encourage more heterogeneous groups that ultimately lead to better market understanding and decision making.

This requires managers to understand their own backgrounds and behaviours better and understand how it affects their perspectives and decision making.

A successful manager should be in a position to manage diversity by building a culture of tolerance through education, training, communication and conflict management strategies.

Here are some tips on making your teams diverse and reaping the benefit:

Hiring

Very clearly the inroads into the organisation should mirror the approach that the organisation has towards building a diverse team. It’s said that the workforce should resemble the community or country in which it is set up.

For the initial impetus required for policy adherence, it may also be necessary to incorporate tangible aspects of the recruitment policy in a each individual team manager’s performance evaluation.

Overcoming bias in the interviewing and assessment process is also another important aspect of hiring for diversity.

By incorporating a diverse interview panel the organisation can ensure that the selection process is free of any biases and prejudices and the candidates are selected based on suitability to the job requirements.

Policies & Practices

With the growing diversity, an organisation needs to ensure that the overall policies and practices are inclusive to all and do not discriminate against or favour a particular set of employees.

It’s important for the policy makers to consider the differential impact that all policies and practices have on the diverse group of employees.

Apart from this its essential to ensure that all the unwritten rules of the organisation are also explained to the all the employees to ensure inclusion from the initial stages itself.

Lastly it’s also essential to constantly take feedback on policies and practices from the employees.

Alongside seeking feedback, the organisation should be willing to challenge and change practices that may currently be perceived as barriers to different groups.

Diversity Training

Organisations may at times have full- fledged diversity training programs, specially in circumstances like mergers and acquisitions. At times there may be diversity training only for specific purposes like providing feedback to employees.

For example: Diversity training for the art of providing feedback.

A manager needs to be able to understand the cultural nuances before providing feedback to employees from different countries and backgrounds.

Another important way to ensure diversity inclusion is to make the workplace and policies more compatible for inclusion of the diversity.

For example: Providing flexi-hours to employees, allowing employees to choose their own holidays according to their religious preferences.

Providing a workplace that is conducive to accommodate the needs of employees with physical disabilities is also very important.

Diversity Awareness

Diversity awareness deals with creating a workplace where individuals understand and respect the differences in race, gender, religion, cultural values and thinking styles.

A huge element of this understanding is self awareness which plays an important role in helping employees understand their own cultural biases, prejudices and stereotypes.

To create diversity awareness it’s essential to improve self awareness of the managers through assessment tools and training.

The assessment could even begin with a 360 degree feedback the results of which could be used to determine the next set of interventions that may be required.

At times coaching or mentoring sessions after a 360 degree feedback may be ideal to increase self awareness thus leading to better diversity management on their part.

We can thus conclude that encouraging diversity is the way forward for organisations in the increasingly global business scenario and organisations successfully managing this will have a definite competitive advantage over others in terms of differentiation, innovation and being an employer of choice.

Via Chron : Cultural Sensitivity Skills in the Workplace

As U.S. workplaces become more diverse, cultural sensitivity becomes more essential. An insensitive remark about a colleague’s culture can create resentment and distrust that don’t go away. Insensitivity can make company statements that value diversity look hypocritical. Having the skills to work with people of different cultures is key.

What Is Cultural Sensitivity?

Cultural awareness is knowing that there are multiple different cultures – based on religion, ethnicity, nationality and other factors – that have different attitudes and outlooks. Cultural sensitivity involves accepting those differences without insisting your own culture is better, or that everyone should do it your way. Cultural-sensitivity skills are sometimes called cultural competence, or the ability to work alongside people with different cultural attitudes and behaviors and to do so effectively.

Embracing Diversity in the Workplace

Cultural sensitivity is a means of embracing diversity in the workplace. This means more to your business than simply being considerate of one another. Diversity brings positive benefits to your bottom line. A workforce with many different cultural backgrounds and frames of reference is one that can reach out to many different communities and turn them into clients for your business.

Emphasizing diversity in your hiring process at the front end of your operations may mean a broader market and more sales at the “business end” of your business.

Communications Skills and Training

Communicating in a diverse, multicultural environment can be awkward. For example, someone might make a sweeping and inappropriate generalization to a coworker about what “his people” are like, causing discord. More subtle problems can involve the differences in how people from different cultures communicate.

A gesture that’s acceptable in one culture might be meaningless or offensive in another. What’s considered the “normal” space between two people standing and talking is different in different societies. In some cultures, criticizing or correcting your boss openly is much less acceptable than it is in the United States.

Posters or employee handbooks can provide employees with some basic guidelines, explaining what the employer expects. In some cases, training sessions might be necessary so that employees can avoid treading on cultural landmines.

Team Building and Cooperation

Building and running teams are valuable professional skills. Doing this in a multicultural workplace is more challenging and more valuable. A team-builder has to communicate well and be aware of cultural conflicts that crop up, even subtle ones. The team builder also has to be aware of her own biases, and accept that in a cultural disagreement, one culture’s values aren’t automatically correct.

When To Be Flexible

Flexibility in dealing with cross-cultural matters is another valuable skill. For instance, in the United States, we often take for granted that we typically don’t have to work on national holidays such as Christmas and Independence Day. Cultural sensitivity includes respecting other people’s important days and realizing that they might need them off.

If there are instances when you have to be inflexible, you need to communicate why. Some cultures are more relaxed than others with less clockwatching. If you need someone to complete their tasks on an airtight schedule, you need the communications skills to explain why that’s important.

Via Practice Business : Combatting sexism in the workplace

It’s 2019 but, sadly, gender inequality and sexism are still rife in the workplace and women must work together to eliminate the epidemic of discrimination, says entrepreneur Rita Trehan. She offers some useful strategies which women – and men – can use to help achieve genuine gender equality.

This is an edited version of an article which first appeared in Elite Business Magazine.

Institutional sexism has, unfortunately, plagued workplaces all over the world since the conception of business itself. While sexism exists everywhere, this doesn’t mean that policies and regulations exist in an inherently sexist way – but that work cultures and attitudes have a similarly detrimental effect for women.

Working towards ending workplace discrimination needn’t be intimidating. In fact, with a few like-minded employees and some simple steps, moving towards it could be easier than you think.

Empower female members of staff

It’s common practice for female employees to assume that sexism applies to them as individuals. It’s important to remind them that, as wrong as this is, this is, historically, how it’s always been and not necessarily a reflection of their capabilities.

It’s common practice for female employees to assume that sexism applies to them as individuals.

Thankfully, the boys’ club mentality that has monopolised many industries is showing signs of dying out, but more work needs to be done to start levelling out the playing field. Ensuring that management, mentors and leaders give female colleagues the opportunity to reach their potential, and the ability to voice their opinions, will make a monumental difference in redressing the balance and creating a more comfortable environment for everyone.

Most female professionals would admit that their greatest critic is usually themselves and that, accompanied by the difficult environment the workplace can provide, it can be hard to thrive. Helping them to hold their own in the office is an invaluable weapon in the fight against institutional sexism. Being able to stick to their guns and articulating a solid argument can help them work towards being considered an equal.

A report suggests that two-thirds of women in the UK suffer from ‘imposter syndrome’ at work. Such strong feelings of self-doubt and insecurity can make them feel as though they’re not worthy of their positions at work which, in turn, can deter women from going for more senior roles, with the result that gender balance within management is harder to achieve. Other than promotions, and climbing the ladder, combatting workplace insecurities can, of course, improve work performance, as well as giving female staff the confidence to trust their instincts and to pursue their ambitions.

A report suggests that two-thirds of women in the UK suffer from ‘imposter syndrome’ at work.

Encourage female staff to back each other

Implementing an informal networking group, and assisting women to find allies in the workplace, can help them become more confident and can also start to solve the issue of women being forced into the background – because it’s a lot harder to ignore five women than one! It certainly isn’t a quick fix but having professional support helps women to be heard in the workplace and can be beneficial for their wellbeing.

For instance, during the Obama administration, women within the White House would use their amplification strategy to ensure women were being heard in meetings and in group settings. If a woman offered an opinion or idea that went unnoticed, other women would echo it until it was acknowledged by the chair. This technique doesn’t need to be performed solely by women, male employees can also support this initiative. Just having someone who can help convey a message when it could get lost in a busy work environment can make all the difference.

Encourage diversity

Celebrating strong women in the workplace, and using them as role models, can help address the imbalance within institutions as well as allowing teams to lead by example. Capable, bold women in the workplace may feel like a novelty to some but, as the number of these role models increases, not only will more women shine but it will become the norm, as it should be already.

It doesn’t end with promoting more women to senior roles. Asking for feedback, or inviting staff to give their ideas on how to tackle the diversity problem, will highlight that there’s an issue and will encourage staff to think of creative initiatives to solve the problem.

Being transparent about wanting to make a change is essential for decision-makers. Remember that some people can be resistant to change, especially if ‘it’s always been that way’. Ask staff direct questions like ‘Why should we make a change and how can we make it?’ and witness their motivation to drive that change soar.

Call it out

Don’t be tempted to laugh along with any jokes that could considered discriminatory, or to ignore anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. These passive acts can often be just as bad as outright sexism. Encourage your staff to take direct action and discuss the issue with their colleagues in order to get them to realise why they’re wrong and/or to stop their behaviour. If the thought of confrontation is worrying to them, perhaps take the responsibility into your hands.

Just because workplace discrimination exists doesn’t mean that it has to. Everyone deserves a workplace to feel comfortable in – let’s help support each other to thrive in workplaces and help the workers reach their potential.

Via Forbes : In today’s highly competitive business environment, it’s more important than ever before to invest in your workforce and facilitate diversity. It goes without saying that to maintain a competitive advantage over other firms, attracting and retaining talent is absolutely crucial. In today’s world, that means creating a culture of inclusion, respect and understanding from the top down.

Diversity in the workplace is one of the key elements in driving innovation, increasing creativity and improving business performance with better decision-making overall. Not only this, according to Glassdoor, diversity attracts top employees, with two-thirds of workers saying the level of diversity was important when evaluating job offers.

Although creating a diverse workforce can benefit everyone, facilitating inclusion can be difficult at times, particularly for smaller organizations. From motivating your team to focusing on the hiring process, here we outline our top tips.

The Hiring Process

Begin this process by evaluating the level of diversity that is already present in your organization and ensure you have current statistics to compare it against; perhaps national, regional and industry figures. This way you can pinpoint exactly where the business is at and monitor future progress. Research has shown that goal-setting can create positive, longer-term results which in turn will increase overall business performance. Setting specific goals, in line with current statistics, could help to make a more lasting impact when it comes to creating a more diverse workforce. Once this is in place, focus on hiring employees from a range of backgrounds. Qualifications and past experience shouldn’t be the only part of an individual’s CV that matters. Attributes such as enthusiasm, creativity and the desire to learn can at times be more important, depending on the company and role.

Embrace Flexible Working

Over the past five years, we’ve witnessed a considerable shift in attitudes towards smarter ways of working. Now, three-quarters of employees in the UK favor a job that gives them the option to work flexibly and are more likely to accept a role in an organization that offers such a schedule. Often employers believe remote working will spark a decline in productivity, yet research has proved the opposite. According to CIPHR, those working at home rate their productivity as 7.7 out of 10, while those in an open-plan office score their productivity at 6.5 out of 10. As well as this, our own data found that more than half of office workers surveyed in 2017 said working away from their office would improve their motivation levels.

Utilize Technology

Technology has advanced greatly over the past decade. Thanks to this, workplace communication has never been so efficient and convenient. Whether it’s email, a conference call provider, or cloud-based service to store documents, processes have now been updated to match the technological changes. Not only does embracing technology, which facilitates flexible working, enable new parents to continue work, or easily slot it into their schedule, it’s also a way to attract younger talent too. Previously, we conducted research into what motivates Generation Z and millennials in the workplace. Poor or slow technology was cited as the most frustrating factor for nearly a third of Gen Z workers. Plus, nearly a third said that having the latest technology is vital in the workplace, reflecting just how important this is when creating a diverse company culture.

Open Up Dialogue

Building trust and opening up conversation are absolutely crucial, particularly when your aim is to build a motivated and productive team. Employees should be able to voice any concerns they have in a confidential, safe environment. For example, some organizations have allocated mental health champions within the workplace to support any team members who may be struggling either at work or in their personal life. Small initiatives like this can make a huge difference, plus will help to facilitate a culture of acceptance and openness. For employees, knowing their workplace cares about them really is key to motivation and this will attract future talent.

Ultimately, employees want to work in an organization where their opinions are heard, and they feel valued. It’s vital for companies to appreciate the input of all staff members, particularly if businesses are to reap the benefits associated with diversity. We can’t pretend that diversity in the workplace doesn’t require work. Although we’ve witnessed a significant change, with firms beginning to embrace newer, more transparent approaches, there is still work that needs to be done. Looking forward, leaders need to focus on creating a more collaborative approach to business and focus on investing in their employees in order to create a more fulfilled, productive and motivated workforce.

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