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Understanding the Workplace’s Role in the Success of DEI with Saadia Sheikh

The JLL Dallas vice president of brokerage & innovation shares her insights on how companies can use their spaces to further inclusivity efforts.
By Saadia Sheikh |

The COVID-19 pandemic no doubt accelerated the need for companies to adjust their workstyle strategies. Now more than ever, companies continue to determine how and where people will work, at home or in the office, and what that means for the physical workspace.

Saadia Sheikh
Saadia Sheikh

Many of the most successful companies across the nation are looking to create robust DEI programs to strengthen their workforce with more diverse team members who can provide new perspectives and strengths. The design behind a physical workplace is crucial to this process and should be a top priority for executives when considering diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

Many businesses are unsure of where to start when creating a more inclusive office space, but there are several ways to tangibly match policy with workplace strategy and design.

Starting the DEI Process

As executives consider how to start the process in building out their DEI efforts, there are four critical steps.

  1. Make a commitment to evaluate the workplace honestly and holistically. Identify what is currently working, the areas to improve, and what needs to be adjusted entirely.
  2. Plan and budget for real design changes. These office updates can be costly but are important and should be taken into real consideration when looking at budgets. It is equally important to share this journey with employees.
  3. Leaders should tell the story of why specific changes are made, why it’s important, and embed the improvements into the company culture.
  4. Finally, be sure to share the same message with other company stakeholders, such as boards, investors, and clients, to clearly communicate the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion both internally and externally.

Areas of Inclusion

A company’s space should be a safe environment that understands and embraces neurodiversity and benefits every individual. Moreover, physical accessibility to all working areas must be guaranteed. Each person has unique capabilities and needs, and it’s vital that everything is taken into consideration.

DEI efforts should include more than just gender-neutral bathrooms. The use of an overall inclusive and neutral design, combined with permanent awareness elements, are essential to normalize the diversity within working environments.

Areas to consider in the workplace atmosphere include physical capabilities, mental health, age, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. Spaces and events that successfully foster and celebrate diversity help all employees in feeling respected and included.

Multiple generations oftentimes make up a single workplace and each one brings unique perceptions, ideas, interaction needs, and requirements. By offering a variety of spaces and tools, companies can support employees with different preferences, abilities, and capabilities.

Looking Forward

At the end of the day, people will always be the top priority and most important resource for companies. As more businesses begin to take a serious look at their DEI efforts, people and place go hand-in-hand as required factors to consider.

Quality candidates continue to gravitate towards businesses that are taking tangible steps to create a more inclusive environment, and companies that are successful with these efforts will continue to attract and retain top talent.

It’s in the best interest of all leadership to commit to auditing their space, making a plan, enacting positive changes, and sharing that journey with their employees. These efforts are imperative to address the needs of a diverse, and therefore successful, workplace.

Saadia Sheikh is the vice president of brokerage & innovation at JLL Dallas.

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