We may not realise it, but some of our most important moments in life happen in the workplace.
From celebrating birthdays, to receiving promotions, to gaining invaluable life skills that help us navigate our way through the world.
For many, the office is a place where we further develop our identify and sense of self. One where meaningful human connections are made, through befriending colleagues, the concierge, the security guard, the cleaners, right through to the barista who makes your morning coffee at the ground floor café. In this way, the significance of ‘the office’ transcends our job titles and the physical attributes of the space we occupy 9-to-5 each day.
The modern workspace is a gathering spot for a community of diverse individuals to come together, develop connections and partake in a meaningful social and cultural exchange. It is a place where beliefs and opinions are formed, influenced, and passed on. Therefore, it has never been more important for landowners to design and operate their assets in a way that not only reflects but harmonises the cultural significance of the modern office space.
A diverse and global workforce
Our society has become increasingly diverse due to globalisation and advancements in communication technology. The benefits of diverse and balanced workforces are well researched and established however, there are segments of our population where there is growing polarisation in equality and human rights, which has been exacerbated by COVID-19.
I am proud to be part of this nation’s growing diversity narrative. A refugee and stateless until the age of five, Australia is now my home and a central part of my story. Moreover, it is a story I hear again and again from countless friends who now work as lawyers, engineers, entrepreneurs and doctors here in ‘the Lucky Country.’ In fact, data from the last Census found nearly half (49%) of all Australians had either been born overseas or had a parent born overseas, and over 300 ancestries were separately identified in Australia
As one of the most diverse, multicultural, and technologically advanced societies in the world, Australia recognises and relishes the benefits of a diverse and balanced workforce. In recent years we have seen businesses incorporate diversity policies and programs into their corporate strategies, which has increased representation amongst minority and marginalised groups in society.
While this is certainly a step in the right direction, it is not enough to simply have a mixed group of people under the one roof. Diversity is meaningless unless it is supported with robust, relevant initiatives that focus on fostering inclusion.
Inclusiveness the cornerstone of community
Ten years ago, the notion that landlords have a responsibility to put in place measures to support diversity and inclusion of building occupants would have been unheard of. The intersection of human and employee rights in recent years, have pushed D&I high on the corporate agenda and we are now seeing these policies transition from a ‘nice-to-have’ to a ‘must-have’.
When it comes to supporting diversity and inclusion, the services and amenities provided within and near commercial properties can go a long way. But it is easy to overlook these in the absence of an advocate. I’ve witnessed this firsthand more times than I can count, most recently turning the course of a property risk analysis conversation by simply adding a female perspective – “I don’t feel safe walking there at night.” Diverse representation in the workforce is essential if we are to invite input in the planning stages.
For new parents, having access to parent rooms and childcare facilities can help reinstate a healthier balance between work and family duties. In 2020, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that 21.3% of couple families with children aged 0-4 years have both parents working full-time. These figures not only highlight the importance of supporting new parents are already at work, but also the need for more measures that can help others return to work. Given childcare duties disproportionately fall to women, the provision of on-site parental amenities can go a long way in promoting gender equality and female empowerment in the workforce.
Office planning and design should also consider the needs of those living with various disabilities. Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports 48% of working-age (aged 15–64) people with disability are employed. By implementing open plan, private-working spaces, alcoves with wide turning spaces, flat panel lighting and lever door handles landowners can create more inclusive environments for those with various mobility, dexterity and social needs. In addition, controls to adjust environmental factors for those with sensitivities to lighting and temperatures.
Integration through learning
Beyond physical amenities, policies and programs to reduce inequality and foster inclusiveness can help promote equality in gender, ethnicity, sexuality, cultural and age in the workforce. Participation in activities such as national, Women’s Day and World Refugee Day can not only help create awareness about the needs of affected groups, but also serve as a symbolic gesture of support, bolstering the sense of community and acceptance within a workplace.
The promotion of lifelong learning and facilitation of education is also essential to the integration of marginalised groups. Landowner implemented programmes that assist less advantaged members of society to improve the opportunities available through providing employment and training opportunities, directly and indirectly, such as through contractors that can provide these services to the asset.
Around the world, cities such as Sydney, New York, London, and Berlin are known for their diverse cultures and progressive way of thinking. These cities proudly boast culturally rich and socially vibrant communities of people from all walks of life. While much of the past year has been spent out of the office, the pandemic has been an important reminder as to the importance of a workplace community. As we continue to return to the office building, it is integral that landowners step up to the plate to ensure that they are creating environments that support empowerment and inclusiveness for all people regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation.
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