Embracing diversity – who are offices designed for?

When I run seminars I like to do a little ice-breaker. I get people to introduce themselves to someone in the room that they don’t know. I ask them to share their name, their company and then one of their hobbies. I really enjoy hearing about the variety of  hobbies that abound in the small world I inhabit; from embroiderers, to rock climbers, to sailors to photographers. I do this to emphasise the point that we are not providing workplaces for corporations or institutions or accountants or lawyers, we are actually providing them for  snowboarders or astronomers or bookworms or bakers.

The workplace just happens to be somewhere that this diverse group of individuals sometimes get together to achieve whatever it is they have been employed to do. What do you really know about your colleagues, and what do they know about you, and do they get to see the authentic you? This was a subject raised by HR professional Doug Shaw recently at the Workplace Trends Conference in his talk about “Rehumanising the Workplace” (you can watch the video below).

Diversity in the workplace is encouraged and even has its own section in some tenders, and that is right and proper. However, diversity comes with great benefits but also offers us all with challenges. Atheists will have to get on with believers, Manchester United fans will have to work alongside Chelsea fans, extroverts will have to collaborate with introverts and punk fans will have to network with Michael Bublé fans. There are people that I work with (very few of course) that I won’t be inviting around to my house for dinner anytime soon, but I am glad that they work for Herman Miller rather than one of our competitors.

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About Mark Catchlove

All views are my own
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