On Jul 21 2023 / by Kay Sargent

Steps to creating an inclusive workplace


The built environments that we live, work and play in impact each of us. As workplace managers we can help address an age-old problem, social inequity, systemic racism, and social injustice. To truly design a space that is inclusive it’s important to understand how space affects people from varying perspectives and characteristics.

To make a difference, we need to begin with the understanding that we all experience things differently, and if we understand those nuisances, we can design environments that avoid the pitfalls while creating welcoming spaces that begin to foster social equity. We need to embrace the principles of universal design …where the design of buildings, products and environments are made to be accessible to all, regardless of age, disability or other factors.

Together, we can create spaces that address Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, JEDI.

Webinar Recording

Key takeaways

  1. Some degree of remote work and hybrid work is here to stay.
  2. One size misfits all. We are a more diverse workforce doing more complex work. We need to understand that what works for one company, or one division, or even one person, may not work for others.
  3. The purpose of place needs to be reassessed and workplaces need to be designed to provide people what they can’t get at home – advanced tech, access to others, ergonomics, great meeting spaces, moments that matter, etc.
  4. We need to leverage technology to create better experiences, and companies need to plan for a rise in cost for technology and focus on cyber security issues.
  5. We need to rethink allocation of space and the metric of building performance and utilization, to account for more dynamic vs. static utilization. We need to measure what matters.


Kay shared some of the latest research from HOK with us so we could pass it along...

1. “Designing a Neurodiverse Workplace” - Publication

2. "Trends Affecting Neurodiversity Towards 2030" - Publication

3. Video focused on research on hypo and hyper sensitivities

4. “Six Design Considerations for including Neurodiversity" - Research Article


[00:00:00] Kezia Lynch: Hi guys. If you're new here, welcome. And if you've joined any of our five prior webinars about driving operational excellence in the workplace, welcome back. I'm the host Kezia Lynch. Last time we got together for a fireside discussion between people and place leaders from REA, Rocket Lab and OrgShakers.

There was some really great practical advice about championing tech ideas in the workplace. So if you missed that, the recording and all of the notes are on the Parkable website right now. Today, Parkable has brought in Kay Sargent to talk to us about creating more inclusive workplaces, no matter what role we're in.

She is the Global Director of Workplace at HOK with a 38 year career in cutting edge workplace design and strategy. Over Kay's extensive career, she's worked with several Fortune 500 companies, spoken at countless events where I've heard her, and also won a number of awards.

I first met Kay at IFMA's World Workplace Conference all the way over in Amsterdam last year. Our first conversation was a really interesting one about how when [00:01:00] we moved towards working from home, employees lost the commuting time. And while studies do show that commutes are traditionally the worst part of an employee's day, they actually play a really important role in mode shifting and providing space and time for reflection.

Kay has prepared an awesome presentation about considering diversity when designing for workplace inclusion and equality of experience. So, with that, we can hand over to Kay

[00:01:25] Kay Sargent: So we're going to dive right into designing for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. Really. For all and I think this is really a very, very hot topic right now. We have lots of people that are really interested in this topic right now, but we need to make sure that we're really thinking about holistically how we can do that best.

So we are not all the same. We have to endeavor to really see things from a different person's perspective and I'm going [00:02:00] to give you an example of something like this, because there's a lot of people that are out there that saying, well, we're not designing you know, to be insensitive and of course, we understand different people's perspectives, but we don't necessarily truly.

I'll I'll do that. And I'm going to share a story about how I was visiting a client. And they had this amazing space that they just had designed 2 story space, beautiful space with a glass staircase going up and they had all these seating areas around and people are gathering, etc. The CEO is so excited to show me this space.

It says, let's go upstairs. Can you really got to see it from above? Let's walk up the staircase. And I stopped and I said, is there an elevator? That I can take, and he goes, Oh, no, no, no, you really got to do the staircase. It's really amazing. And I looked at the group of men that were sitting underneath the glass staircase and down at my skirt, and then back at the group of men.

And for the first time ever. It dawned on him why I may [00:03:00] not want to walk up that glass staircase, and he was mortified. Now I guarantee nobody intentionally did that, but not being in my shoes, whoever designed that space may not have necessarily thought about that. And it's not that we're intentionally trying to be biased, but we just don't necessarily always see things.

You know, we have an opportunity right now to rethink everything. COVID has given us carte blanche to say, okay, everybody in the entire world is thinking about work and workplace and, and how we design for the workforce. And so we have a unique opportunity. And I'm going to say, and I'm going to challenge the design community and everyone right now to really think bigger than themselves.

Because again, we are not all the same. And so in our research, we really have identified 10 different Characteristics that we think define each one of us, or some element of each one of these, maybe each one of us, who we [00:04:00] really are as we go forward. And so the 1st is race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity.

social economics, age, physical abilities, mental health, cognitive and neural health, and our religious preferences. We are all a combination of many of these, some of us are a combination of all of these, right? But Not one defines us. And when you think about this with physical abilities and or abilities, we have addressed that about 30 years ago when we created the disability acts and really started to think about how do we design for people that are handicapped.

And we've done a tremendous amount of research of late, specifically around neurodiversity. But what about all these other factors, right? What if I'm someone who was a little bit order? older? Or what if I'm shorter? Or what if I have poor eyesight? Or what if I have certain religious preferences or habits or [00:05:00] things that are important to me as an individual?

And so if we really truly want to design for inclusion, we need to understand that we are living in a time where we have such a diverse population that one size misfits all. And so we really asked ourselves, can we develop best practices that promote and build diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the design process?

Hey, now, I have to say that because I can't solve all the world's problems, but I am a designer. Right. And so I had to look at my little piece of the pie of what can I affect and how can that have a ripple out from there. And so we really look at the design process and we realized we build millions of square feet of space.

And that has an impact on all the people that are occupying that space and how accessible or welcome or inclusion included they actually feel. And so we set out as a firm to really think about what is our vision for [00:06:00] designing for equity. And we came up with some principles that really said that building design in spaces should really address human needs and should be equitable and be done in a sustainable manner.

That we need to foster communities where all people have equal access to shelter, health, and nature. And again, foster communities. And we need to design spaces that enrich and inspire. All individuals. Now everybody right now is talking a great game about this, and we all agree like those are great things to do.

Let's do it. But the question is how how do we actually do this? And how do we bake it into the process? So we decided that we really needed to think about this throughout our entire design process and how we do this. So we started to think about building equitable practices into our existing workflows and our work charts.

Let me give you an example of that from the very first meeting with our clients. We often ask, and we talk about diversity [00:07:00] and equity and every client's like, yeah, we, we want to do that. Like that's important to us. That's in our ESGs. We want to do that. Do you really want to do that? Is that really important to you?

Is that, you know, do we really want to embrace that? Because if we do, it starts now. And do we even have the right people in the room? And I cannot tell you how many times when we kick off a project, the room. It's not very diverse. There's a lot of people that are maybe a little bit older, a little bit specific age groups, specific gender, specific you know, racial mix and or lack of.

And so it really starts with this. And the other day we were talking and somebody said that this was really important. We challenged and we said, it starts right here with making sure we have the right people in this meeting and are on the committee. And the guy in charge got up. Thank you. And he walked out of the room and I thought to myself, well, this might be the shortest meeting I've ever had because I'll [00:08:00] make, I didn't like what I just said, but we kind of, somebody else said, yeah, just keep going.

It's all right. It's like, okay. So we just kind of kept powering on and, and going on. And a few minutes later, he walked back in with four or five new people. Very diverse and said, These guys are now part of our committee. You're right. This isn't a diverse enough group. If we want to really create diverse spaces, we need a diverse committee to do it there.

They now are signed up. They're on board. So it does. It starts there. And it really is us challenging and thinking about that through the whole process. It's also about tracking the process and metrics and thinking about what is it that we think is successful. And how are we managing that throughout the process and ensuring that we're really addressing that it's about creating equity champions and bringing them into our teams that are constantly asking us, and this is internal to us that are constantly saying, did you do this?

Did you do that? Did you reach out to the right people? Did you include the right [00:09:00] people? Did you think about this? Did you see it from somebody else's perspective? And they are constantly reminding us to get outside of our own little grooves and our habits about how we typically go about delivering things, see things differently.

And it's about look engaging local design. For equity councils as much as possible. So a lot of organizations have groups that are employee resource groups that are specifically around diversity or the younger demographics or a specific ethnic group, et cetera. And the question is, are we engaging and including them in the process?

The other thing is that we don't have to start from scratch. There's a lot of great stuff that's already out there that starts to exist or starts to address social equity, diversity, and inclusion. And so what can we leverage that's already in existence? So we're not necessarily just starting. So here's kind of a whole list of things that we always look at as [00:10:00] guides and think about how can we include some of those best practices that already exist.

And then we also need to think about Those principles about designing for equity. So we have five that we really like to talk about, which are partnering with the community because we want to be good neighbors. We want to fit in. We want to be, you know, we should benefit the neighbors when we're moving into a space and or vice versa.

We want to plan for inclusion. And that means making sure that we're bringing lots of different people to the table and we're thinking about things from different perspectives. We want to provide equity of experience. We want to promote health and well being for all. And we also want to be champions for environmental justice.

So kind of those ESG's, those environmental, social and governance that so many companies have. And one of the things that we often do is before we even have an initial meeting with our clients, we'll go to their website. Okay. And, or we'll go to their annual report and we'll look and see what are their [00:11:00] ESGs and what are their goals and objectives.

And then we'll present that. And for one of our clients, they were kind of struggling about, yeah, I don't really know if anybody's going to take this seriously, but on their website and in their in their annual report, they had a whole thing about ESGs And seven of the 10 ESGs that they highlighted as being really important to them were all things that were being impacted by how we design space.

And so it opened up a whole new justification for what it was that we were doing and helped them realize that the way we're designing and delivering the space actually is impacting a lot more than we might initially think. So let's break each one of these down. So when we think about partnering with the community, it's about thinking about the historic and cultural inclusion or integration of the area, the neighborhood, the city, wherever it is that we are.

We want to think about the context and the connection. Tivity to that organization and to that community. And [00:12:00] we want to think about the benefits and the amenities, not only necessarily for us, but vice versa. Are there things that we can leverage in the community? Are there existing gyms and restaurants that we want to make sure that we're being good patrons of?

And are there amenities that we might be able to offer to To the community, such as public lands or services that they can benefit from. So again, it's about being that good neighbor and partnering with the community. And when we think about plan for inclusion, it's really about creating a sense of belonging and acceptance about making people truly feel welcome that that starts with making sure that they can actually access the space in a safe manner, and that they can find their way around it, understanding that not everybody reads.

Not everybody is understands the same languages. Some people are blind. Some people are illiterate. And so thinking about how do [00:13:00] we create intuitive wayfinding that's supplemented in multiple ways so it's really easy for people to navigate their spaces. And then it's about those services and those amenities.

And it's about a variety and flexibility and understanding that not everyone is the same. And what you might want to be really important for you, I may not necessarily need, but I might need something else. Right. And so it's about creating a variety of spaces that really meet the needs of everyone. And when we think about promoting health and well being for all, we want to make sure that people have spaces to physically engage and to encourage movement so they can actually be healthy and thrive.

They're not just

We want we kind of lived through that for a few years. We kind of want the opposite of now, right? We want to be able to physically engage in the space and I love this illustration because it's literally engaging [00:14:00] with the building and you don't necessarily have to have like your building be a rock climbing wall.

But you know, just whether it's walking meetings or access to outdoor space or a little bit wider corridor so people can circulate and move and giving people options and choices. air quality is huge today. We've all lived through a time where we've realized kind of the insignificance of that and creating supportive environments, whether it's bringing elements of biophilia or refreshing spaces or opportunities where people can just kind of catch a breath or might be able to just step away from a minute.

To have a little bit of a respite. And again, then access to natural daylight views of the outdoors and incorporating natural elements into the space as well. There are lots of ways that we can introduce by Ophelia, and it's not just sticking a plant in the corner. It's about organic shapes. It's about fractals.

It's about lighting patterns. It's about introducing the light and surprise and all kinds of ways that we can really connect people to kind of a more [00:15:00] natural settings. And then. Champion environmental justice. We need to really think about carbon emissions and how we are reducing them. We need to think about how are we conserving water and being good stewards.

We need to think about healthy materials. Because often we focus so much on the building materials, we think that that has the biggest impact and it absolutely does. But for the average building, the interiors are flipped up to seven times. And so when you take the interior materials times seven, that actually has a significant impact on the environment.

And so how can we introduce elements of circularity? How can we ensure we're not introducing harmful chemicals? And how are we really creating? Sustainable solutions in the materials that we're choosing. And then of course, energy reduction as well and or energy regeneration and how do we getting back to the [00:16:00] grid and really kind of going to that next level.

I think we're at a point now where we can all say nobody wants to just sustain. Anymore. We're beyond that. We need to actually regenerate. We want to thrive and we need to go beyond that to correct some of the damage that has been done and to really ensure that we're going in the right direction, not the wrong direction.

And then we also need to think about how are we providing equity. of experience. So whether that's ensuring access for all and truly going beyond some of the things that are already there to welcome a broader group because we are now in a war for talent. And we probably for the foreseeable future will be in a war for talent as our population in certain areas is declining.

And so as companies really

And so when we And that might be people that traditionally may not have gone to an office every single day. And so it's a great opportunity to create more [00:17:00] inclusive spaces, but they have to be able to access the spaces and feel welcome when they're there. And then we also need to encourage options and choices.

Again, one size, misfits all and giving people different settings that meets their needs is absolutely imperative. But we also have to give them a certain amount of control and not only just from individual workplace controls, but also operational controls. And so we need to think about our HR policies and our practices.

And we need to think about what are the adjustments that we can do, whether it's lighting levels or being able to move away from things that are adjutants, et cetera. It's important that we do that. And then we always say. That one of the best places to start for anyone is the seven principles of universal design that again are already out there and they talk about ease of use and the fact that we're not all the same body size and the same body type, and that we need to think about how do we make things intuitive and easy and [00:18:00] simple, right?

And so all of those things are important. And so those seven principles of universal design, if you do nothing else, think about how do we create equity of use? How do we instill flexibility so that it can be adjusted and or tweaked? How do we ensure that things are simple and intuitive, right? Like doors aren't super heavy or that it's easy to understand which way do I go if I can't redesign, right?

At least everything else in the building is designed, whether it's brighter lighting or whether it's It's visual clues or whether it's the use of color or a widening corridor. So I'm going to walk towards that wider space versus away from a narrowing space. We need to think about how we're designing and we need to design things that are perceptive that are really easy for people to understand, not confusing and disorienting.

We need to have that tolerance for error and we need to mitigate any things that could cause harm or risk. We want to [00:19:00] ensure that we have low physical effort. Right. We're not all six foot five bodybuilders, right? And so we need to make sure that we can get to spaces and open them and move into those spaces.

And we're not all right handed by the way either. There are a lot of lefties that are out there too that are hopefully cheering right now because most of the world has been designed for right handed people and we need to think that we're not all the same. And we need to think about that size and space and appropriateness of right.

And so how do we really accommodate the vast Varied society that we actually are today. So when we start to think about what do we need to really leverage these planning principles and how do we create these inclusive spaces, we really have kind of come up with a whole list. Of recommendations or suggestions that we would say are things that we need to think about.

And so whether it's from wayfinding or access or color or materiality, a long list, and there's lots of standards out there that are starting to be developed. [00:20:00] The British Standards Institute came out with some guidelines. The BCC has guidelines. IWBI is coming out with some guidelines. Lots of different things out there that really start to address how do we do this more holistically.

I'm going to make a plug here because one of the things I think that is happening is there's so many people running in different directions that we're not coming together. And one of the worst things we could do is have 20 different Guidelines or standards out there that are conflicting and nobody knows which one to use.

What we need to do is come together as an industry, because all boats will rise when the tide goes up. It is not a race. Okay. This issue is far more important as designers and architects. We have a responsibility to create spaces that are welcoming and inclusive. None of us went to design school because we wanted to stick it to people, right?

[00:21:00] Everybody went because we wanted to create great spaces. And if you're a real estate person or a facility manager, or you're responsible for that, your goal Is to make your spaces as welcoming and inclusive for your population as possible. And so we need to think more holistically about that. And we all have a responsibility that we need to do.

Now, again, I keep coming back to options, choices, and control. Because we can't design this perfect space. And I think part of the problem is that for a long time we tried to design. Average space based on benchmarks for the average person and doing the average task, but I defy anybody to tell me who is that average person today, then what is the average space and we don't really know that.

And so it's really about understanding the variety of activities that are happening, the value that they each bring, and how do we design them more [00:22:00] holistically. And one of my favorite quotes is from a student that we were talking about. Who said we are freshwater fish in saltwater. If you put us in freshwater, we can function just fine.

But if you leave us in saltwater, we'll struggle to survive. No one on this call wants to create saltwater. And put a bunch of freshwater fish in it, because we all know what will happen. They will not thrive. But that is what's happening if we're not consciously making the decision to do the right thing.

And so how do we really understand what that is? So I'm going to give you an example of one of those buckets in the neurodiversity bucket, where about six years ago, we had a client that basically said, Oh, yeah. And by the way, How do you design a space for someone that's ADHD? Now, I'm the mother of five.

I've designed a lot of spaces, a lot of higher ed and, and K through 12 spaces. And so I had an okay answer to that, [00:23:00] but it wasn't a great answer. And so we started to do a lot of research and what we found is there's Literally almost like a void of information on this topic, and I would say that we really, truly embrace this notion that as designers, a lot of us intuitively know what to do, but there is absolutely a science to the art of design, and it's bringing both together that are going to create really successful spaces for individuals.

And the other thing that's really important to note is the World Health Organization changed the definition a few years ago about disability and the interaction of space and the importance of it. And they basically said that physical, cognitive, and social exclusion can occur at the point of interaction between an individual and an environment where there is a misalignment between the two.

Now let's take that one step further. Individuals have impairments. If the [00:24:00] environment is designed in a supportive way, they're not necessarily disabled. They can function very well. But if the environment is not designed to support them, the misalignment between the individual and the building, then they are disabled.

Now, I cannot change someone's impairment, but I can change the built environment. So therefore, that's what we need to be focusing on to ensure that we're not creating spaces that are in a sense creating a disability for an individual with an impairment. So when you think about this, there's all kinds of sensory distractions that are out there, smells, there's noise, there's visual stimulations, and they impact all of us, not just people that are neurodiverse.

And those sensory distractions can lead to cognitive distractions or that loss of focus and cause discomfort. And when that happens, [00:25:00] then we have a loss of engagement and a loss of productivity. We get presenteeism, poor recall, stress, burnouts, dissatisfaction. Everybody is so focused on people achieving at the highest level, right, being engaged.

But if you think back to high school psychology 101, Mabeloff's Hierarchy of Needs, you can't achieve anything at the top of the pyramid if the bottom of the pyramid isn't solid. And the bottom of the pyramid is making people feel safe. And secure if they don't feel safe and secure because they're totally overwhelmed or distracted or disoriented or feel they could even be in danger, then they can't ever achieve those higher things.

So we have to start and make sure that we're addressing the basics. And so, when we think about what are the challenges that are in the built environment. We did a survey of 202 individuals that were neurodiverse, [00:26:00] because we believe strongly in nothing about us, without us, so right out of the mouths of what was important.

And for a lot of us, some of these things weren't actually that surprising. In fact, if I asked the designers on the call, what are the top three things that are the most distracting or that we hear on every post occupancy is distressing, you'd probably get the first three right. Sound. Light and temperature, but all of these have to do with our sensory perception.

Right. And so the biggest challenges are sensory challenges. Yet most of us really don't have a good understanding of how these things are impacting or what we can do to mitigate them. Now I take it the next level. We also asked a question about just the number of people in the proximity of people to each other.

And those got really strong and high results as well. And somebody asked us once if this was related, we thought this was [00:27:00] impacted by COVID. And the answer is, I think so, but I can't say for sure, because my intuition would tell me that yes, since COVID, all of us are a little bit more sensitive about how close we are to people, or when we're in crowded spaces.

But this question wasn't often asked before COVID, and so we don't really have anything to test it against, because it wasn't something that was commonly asked. Another thing that isn't commonly asked, most people assume that people that are neurodiverse need quiet spaces and they need to be isolated and they need to go into these spaces by themselves and so they should all have these quiet private spaces.

But, have you ever been in a restaurant when there's only one other couple in the restaurant? It's not a great experience. And so in some cases, when a space is too quiet, it's actually more troubling. Some level of sound is actually good. It actually brings a little bit of [00:28:00] comfort, or it brings a little bit of energy.

Okay? It's when you can clearly hear what somebody is saying, or it gets too loud, or the volume or the pitch is off, that then it becomes distracting. Not everybody wants to be in enclosed spaces. In fact, what we found is that more people were bothered by being in confined, enclosed spaces than were being in open space.

But what might be right for you. May not work for me. And so we can't just assume that everybody needs the same thing we need to create spaces that give people some options and choices and some control. And then of course patterns and color and texture. We actually think that this probably has a bigger impact, but people are less aware of it.

And so they don't score as high. But if I put something that was really crazy in a space, it would probably bother you. But because we [00:29:00] tend not to do that, we kind of take those things for granted. So if I, if you walked into a space that was bright red and crazy patterns and things going in all different directions, you'd probably be like, Oh my God, I'm totally disoriented.

I can't even be in the space. Right. But you don't tend to run into those spaces. So it's one of those things that might not get as much notice because it tends not to be as as offensive. Now, when we think about this, also, we need to think about all those sensory challenges. And again, we are all getting assaulted 24 hours a day about all of the sensory challenges that are coming at us.

And whether it's sound or visual or tactical. Or smells or taste or even our body position and our sense of balance. All of those things are impacted and if you learned in elementary school about the five senses. They're actually seven and some people will actually argue there's even more than that.

Right. When you think about intuition, et cetera, but there are at least seven. So we're going to [00:30:00] focus on those seven that impact. So let's talk a little bit about sensory thresholds. Okay. Because we all have a different reaction and you don't have to be neuro diverse. to have an aversion to sound or visual stimulation.

But a lot of us fall into that category of neurotypicals, meaning that you're impacted by it, but it still falls within a predictable range and you can handle it and it's not debilitating. Okay. But for people that are neurodiverse, they tend to either be hypersensitive Right. They can't handle a lot of distractions or patterns.

They like things more simple, more organized, less background noise, maybe more physical boundaries and spaces. And on the other end of that spectrum, you have people that are hyposensitive. They actually are sensory seekers. They need more simulation. They need to move. They need to. They're always constantly tapping, they're the ones that are standing up in meetings and rocking back and forth and writing and they [00:31:00] can't sit still and they might want like to touch things and to be physically engaged and to literally be moving.

And that doesn't go away, we don't outgrow that. And so, I think the interesting thing here is that You can be neurotypical, but have a sensitivity to sound. And maybe you can be hypo sensitive to one thing and hyper sensitive to others. And what makes this really complicated is that you've got even people that are neurodiverse can be a little bit of both hyper and hypo.

So now how does this all equate into the built environment? So in our research around workplace, we've identified six modalities of work. These are kind of six things that people are doing when they're in space. And that's Concentrate that kind of communal process, right? I'm doing something, but I don't need to be in total isolation.

I may be answering emails or whatever. And so I want to be in an environment. That's a little bit buzzy, right? Like a coffee shop type mentality. There's [00:32:00] create there's congregate. There's contemplate and refresh. And people often want to lump contemplate and refresh and concentrate together. They're different.

Concentrate or focus is I'm reading something and it's an intense focus, right? And I like all my brain power is generated there. Contemplate and refresh is almost the opposite, right? You need a break. You want to clear your mind. You want to just have your mind free or you just, you walked out of a meeting and you just kind of want to process things or just let things permeate.

And so it's kind of the opposite. It's about processing things. that intense focus and just having that refresh and reset. And then there are social spaces. Now we want to make sure that we're creating a hyper and a hyposensitive version of each. I'm going to give you two examples of this. If you go to the left and you think about concentrative, a lot of spaces today have phone rooms or booths that are set up so that people can focus and concentrate.

But if I'm [00:33:00] hyposensitive, and I don't like to be in confined space, and I don't like, you know, that, that's bothering, and I need to move and fidget, then I'm going to, I'm going to shut down in those spaces. And so I might need a space that's off to the side that has a little bit of shielding, and then I can fidget in, but that will help me concentrate or focus.

And it's also about the way we design the spaces, right? So if you think about this. And I cannot pick up a design magazine to this day without seeing this, you know, designers, I think we often get those concentrate spaces, right. About for the hyper, right. So we create all these phone rooms, but then we want them to be fun.

So we put great, you know, bold colors and crazy patterns in those spaces. You have literally just sort of circuited the person that you've designed that space for, and saying that it's like. No doubt that is so obvious, but I'm telling you it happens all the time because we're not necessarily tying that science to the art and really thinking about that.

I'm going to [00:34:00] the opposite side of those social spaces. Okay. There are some spaces like those concentrate where you can have different rooms or different settings, but there are other places where. You want everybody to come together. You're never going to have a social hub that's just for hypersensitive people and one that's just for hyposensitive people, okay?

That's the opposite of inclusion. And so what do you do when you have a space that you're going to have a little bit of both in? Will you create zones? Within zones, you might have that group setting at a high top table in the middle of the room, but then off to the side, you have those spaces that are maybe tucked away a little bit lower for kind of the wallflowers or people that might just need a little bit of focus and distance.

And so when we start to think about those six modalities, we really can start to think about how do we design this. So I'm going to just take this one. This is for that concentrate and focus. And you can see for someone that is hype. Earth sensitive, the blue dots, they might want some place that has a little bit [00:35:00] more visual shielding.

They might want a lower lighting level. They might want a drop ceiling. They might want to sit and feel comfortable and protected. And, you know, they're snug in this space, but someone that's hype. Oh, sensitive might want, you know, to stand and to move and fidget, not be boxed in and to feel like they have some visibility, or they might just want to sit off to the side.

And to signal to other people that I don't want to be bothered, but they don't want to be boxed in. And so they want to be in a space off to, you know, kind of a little bit, have a little bit of territorialism or, or defined, but not being secluded into a box or a space like that. And so we really start to go through all six of those modalities of work and think about what are the elements of design and how do we really start.

start to address that. So here's a great example of that communal space where you might have people that are sitting off to the side, a little bit more screening, a little bit [00:36:00] more shielded because they don't necessarily want to be in the middle of everything. But then you've got another group of individuals that want to sit together because they're, they're much more social or they, they're more hyposensitive or they want to engage in a different level and giving people the option that you might have.

Hypersensitive people that might need to sit at that team table for a while, but they then need a respite of someplace that they can go to get the opposite experience and maybe to kind of reset. So again, this is 1 of those spaces where you want everybody to be together. You don't want to be exclusive, but you have zones within zones that allow people to find their happy spot.

We think about creative spaces and how we design for that lots of opportunities for information sharing and moving and different layers and how people can engage, or even meeting spaces not everyone feels comfortable at the table or some people want to stand and move and fidget right on the wall.

Giving them the opportunity to do so [00:37:00] can be really important. And or again, those social spaces that have kind of those zones within the zones. You've got people that are going to sit right at that team table. You've got people that are just going to be a little bit off to the side maybe, but they're still engaged.

And then people that are sitting in the booths because they want, they needed a little extra kind of space for themselves. And this is what we really focus on when we think about permission signaling. Where you sit. Starts to signal your level of engagement that you are allowing or giving other people permission.

So if I sit off to the side, I'm kind of signaling people that I'm, I'm solo, okay? If I sit right in the middle of everything at a high top, I equal eye distance with anybody that's walking around, I'm almost inviting them. To engage with me, right? And so there's lots of those social behaviors that when we start to address some of those elements and introduce them into the work environment, we can actually create some intuitive layers that really help address some of these [00:38:00] specific needs.

So I'm going to give you some real quick examples. This is a space. It's a lobby space. And so you think about it, some people, most, most of our houses, we have an area that when you first walk in the door, there's like a little foyer, right? Or space that you can just kind of take a minute because you're transitioning from one space to another.

But in. The built environment. We're also just thrown into an environment and, you know, it's like throwing somebody into the deep end. And so allowing people that need to when they arrive at a space and they might have a crazy commute or just trying to get to the building was a harrowing experience, an opportunity to step off to the side.

Now there is not a single plant in this space, but that drop ceiling, the different levels of lighting, the little introduction of some natural elements it's having the ceiling drop makes it more intimate, a little bit of color, etc. So if you're coming in and you just want to power on and you're ready, well, you're on the, on the left side of this and you're moving and you're going straight through but if you [00:39:00] just need to get grounded.

There's an opportunity for you to be able to do that. This was a conference room that had boxed in the largest rectangular table that could be shoved in this room with a maximum number of chairs. What we did is we opened it up so people didn't feel as confined, but they still, the space is defined by the, you know, the walls on the side, but there is no back wall there, right?

And so it's open, it's airy, you get good airflow in that space. There's a variety of seating areas. People can sit at the back with their, with their backs protected. And or they can sit right in the middle. They can readjust the furniture. If I'm a fidgeter and I want to stand and write on the wall, I can do that.

There's pops of colors that bring some interest, but it's not overwhelming and too just, you know, too much. So it, it allows a little bit of vibration in there, but it's not distracting. And my favorite element is a biophilic element that most people usually miss, which is the ceiling. So we dropped the ceiling.

And [00:40:00] by the way, nowhere in nature is there a rectangular white box with strip lighting. Okay. So what we did here is we had a perforated panel that looks like it emulates a canopy of leaves in a forest. And so when you're in that space, the lighting is diffused and it's not just. shining down on you in a very artificial way.

It's a little bit more organic, a little bit lighter, and a little bit more natural, right? And that drop ceiling helps to define the space and make people feel a little bit more comfortable. Having a little bit of territorialism, soft boundaries, the ability to adjust chairs, the ability to stand and have some distance between yourself and someone if you need that but also, you know introducing those natural elements, whether it is plants or access to natural daylight and having those elements of hospitality, you just feel more comforting to us and less sterile can really help put people at ease.

And even [00:41:00] in these

You know, a lot of people were like, well, why do we really need this? Well, there are a lot of people that have a lot of excess energy and they need to get that out. And so being able to do that in a socially acceptable way is important. And so this gives some people I can just go and get lost in the TV and that's how I'm going to reset or I'm going to physically engage and play a game of pool or I'm going to sit off to the side and just have a casual conversation.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. The space that is meant for social interaction also allows individuals to connect and who are you more likely to interrupt people that are playing pool and are physically engaged or the guy in the back of the room. That's kind of off to himself. His back is to everybody and clearly is immersed in doing something right.

And so again, that permission signaling and creating environments where they're different settings. The other thing I think that's really important is this whole notion of prospect and refuge, right? And so [00:42:00] surprises aren't always good, right? You don't necessarily want to walk around the corner and smack into somebody, especially if you're feeling a little uncomfortable with that.

And so understanding. What's coming where you're glowing clear lines of sight for way finding also for orientation, even that access to outside just reconnect you to. Is it raining? Is it snowing? Is it sunny? Is it is it night? Is it day like as humans we need? And I think, you know, during covid, I think we all had a little bit of prospecting and refugees.

I want you to think about when you went to the grocery store. And you would look down an aisle before you walk down that aisle, you prospected. Is it busy? Are there too many people? Is there escape route? Are there a bunch of people that I'm going to feel uncomfortable with? And if the answer was yes, you moved on to the next one, right?

And so we as humans primarily and. And think about are we safe? Do we have a [00:43:00] clear exit? And what is coming at us, right? And especially after, you know, the pandemic and what a lot of people went through, I think they, they seek that. And so there's lots of things from a design standpoint that we can do. We can create options.

We can allow for movement. Some people might need dedicated spaces. They need a routine. They need something consistent. But other people People want options and choices. Some people really need access to natural daylight or natural elements can be important, or even the ability to sit in low or no traffic areas or to have quiet rooms or spaces that you can retreat to.

And as far as lighting goes, having different lighting levels can not only help with setting the mood for a space, it wayfinding. We tend to walk towards brighter spaces, but there are a lot of people. That get migraines and need dark spaces or spaces where they can drop the lighting. And so all of these things are some of the strategies that when [00:44:00] we're designing, we really need to take into account.

And we need to understand that we also have to address the HR and the operational elements. And we need to think about individual adjustments because even if I get all the operational and training. And we designed an environment that's welcoming and inclusive. We still need to acknowledge that everyone is unique, and they're all going to need to make those individual tweaks or adjustments.

And so allowing for that is important. One of my favorite quotes is, Indifference towards people and the reality in which we live is the only, the one and only true cardinal sin of design. We have an obligation to think beyond ourselves, to understand that we're not just designing for me or you, we're designing for a variety of individuals and we need to think about that.

And the last quote that I will end with is diversity is about [00:45:00] counting people, but inclusion is about making people count. And I think we all want to create environments. And spaces and experiences where people feel not only can they just go, but they're actually willing to stay and be successful and they can thrive because people do count and that's important.

So, with that, I think we still have a little bit of time we have about. 1015 minutes for some questions.

[00:45:32] Kezia Lynch: Yeah, so we're keen to hear from the audience. Now that you've learned a little bit about all of the different kind of factors that could possibly trigger you from K, what are the factors that you find most challenging in a workplace? I know for me, it's definitely acoustic. I'm an auditory person and then it's also temperature. I'm always freezing. So if I'm cold, it's not going to be a great day for me.

Moving on to the first question we have. Designing for all possible needs sounds expensive. Should we be [00:46:00] designing for all of them? Or if not, how do you know which ones you should be meeting?

[00:46:04] Kay Sargent: So, I would say that designing quarterly... Costs just as much money is designing smartly. And when you design poorly, it can actually cost more money because then you are negatively impacting people's ability to be productive and successful.

And so if there's, if we do anything in the built environment that negatively impacts people's ability to stay or to be function at their fullest, we can actually cost an organization more money now. When we think about cost and there's a lot of things that we can do that are low or no cost, right? Like being like choosing the right paint color or choosing you know, creating different settings.

So a lot of those things aren't necessarily high cost, but those 10 things that we recommended and that that list that I shared are probably the biggest ones. And the number one thing that you could do is [00:47:00] just give people options and choices and give them a little bit of control. That that goes a huge way in truly helping individuals have a little bit of control and balance in their space.

[00:47:15] Kezia Lynch: And on the, on the flip side of that, I guess, if you are exploring what sort of needs are relevant to the workforce, you're possibly dealing with in the workplace. Should we be surveying to understand people's needs and things like that? Or, you know, how do you go about that? Sometimes they are touchier topics and people might not feel comfortable disclosing information about themselves too.

[00:47:34] Kay Sargent: We have our intelligence and then we have our emotional intelligence, but we also have our sensory intelligence. And I'm going to say that for most individuals, Our sensory intelligence is really low, really low. Most people don't really understand a lot of this. There are some tests that you can take that will [00:48:00] identify what your sensitivities are.

And it's fascinating. And I'll give you an example. A lot of women tend to be, women tend to be more sensitive to visual stimulation. It doesn't mean that they don't like visual settings. In fact, they actually do like that. They like that variety and choices and, you know, those aesthetics tend to be really important to women.

But clutter and chaos can be incredibly disorienting. We took this test and it came back that I have a heightened sensitivity to clutter and chaos.

And I realized. I can't function well if I'm in a space and during COVID I was living at home. I have five children, four of them were at home and you know they'd stay up late at night cooking and doing whatever. Now somehow cooking wasn't going to wake me up but doing the dishes was. So every morning I would wake up at you know six o'clock in the morning to a kitchen that was in [00:49:00] chaos and it drove me nuts and I couldn't do like having that.

Chaos me. I couldn't function. It's like it just causes this anxiety in me and I never really understood it. And when I did the test, it shows that I have this heightened sensitivity to that. I need visual stimulation, but it has to be ordered and structured and things are out of order or out of sequence or chaotic.

I had to fix that first before I can really get down and focus and concentrate and do anything else. And so literally I literally was like, I am not making this up. Like I'm not crazy. And, and actually a lot of women are actually like that. And so, but if you ask people, Oh, does, does, does visual chaos bother you?

Most people would be like, no, but in reality actually really does. And sometimes I think. You know, people tend to think acoustics is always a big problem. In some cases, it's the lack of any sound or not having the right kind of sound.[00:50:00] So I, I think intuitively, if I were to ask you, do you have a preference?

Most people were like, yeah, you know, about a restaurant, like where you might sit. It's like, yeah, yeah, kind of, maybe. But if you walked into a restaurant and the maitre d tried to sit you right at the front door with your back to the door, most of us would be like, I'm sitting there. Yeah. So clearly you do, right?

And I think instinctively, we all kind of know it, and we move to places that we feel more comfortable, but if we had to articulate why we chose that space, or if we had any preference, we probably couldn't do it, because things that are intuitive, like phone numbers, you just dial automatically, but if somebody asked you what the phone number is, I couldn't tell you, right?

So I think sometimes our bodies are smarter than our minds are.

[00:50:46] Kezia Lynch: Interesting. Speaking of the challenges that people have mentioned in the poll, the highest ranking was temperature, followed by lighting. You're not allowed food. Yeah, always cold.

Jumping through to the next question. [00:51:00] How do you balance providing to the needs of individuals and then the organization as well when designing inclusive workplaces?

[00:51:08] Kay Sargent: I think sometimes it's, it seems like it's It's, you know, mutually exclusive, but it's not necessarily. So if we make our people happy, then they're going to be more productive and they're going to be better workers, and they're not going to have as many issues. Right. And so I, I think that's important, but also we do need to understand that we can't, you know, there's not endless number of options.

If you're a smaller organization and you may not be able to do that, but, you know, understanding and giving people some options and choices, I think is important. And if you had to err. People tend to be hyper sensitive than hype. Oh, sensitive. You don't necessarily want to box everybody in. But if you had to air on one side, it would be, you can always add simulation.

Once it's in the built environment, it's harder to take it away. Right? So if [00:52:00] somebody is hype, oh, sensitive, you know, you. If they could get outside, or if they can move, or if they can, you know, you know, walk up and down a flight of steps, or, you know, do different things, but if you're in an overly chaotic space, it's hard to take those things away.

So sometimes you do need to make a little bit of, of trade offs, and you need to think about what are the easier things that we can do, and it might just be, you know, you might have an area. That is higher stimulation. In fact, we often say the social spaces where you're in not, you know, you can choose.

I want to go in there for 10 minutes. And then after that, I can't take it anymore, but you don't have to be in there for more than 10 minutes where somebody else might want to spend two hours in that room. And you're like, why is he always in the social space? Well, it could be because it's giving him this, you know, that person, the stimulation that they actually need that they feel more successful.

Right. And so I think that that's part of it. Yeah. The next question comes back to technology. So you talked a lot about like the physical space, but there's also lots of technology tools that [00:53:00] you can use for places more inclusive. Yeah, technology can play a huge role positively and negatively. So I'll give you some examples.

A lot of people that are artistic have a very difficult time looking people in the face. And so they tend to look around the edges. And so can you imagine being on a Zoom call with all these people staring at you? And so there are some people that might look away or are uncomfortable or don't put their cameras on because of that.

Because they're uncomfortable. Now, technology can also be a great tool because you can have sound canceling headphones, you can have dictation, you can have, you know, closed captions, which are becoming far more common for a lot of individuals. You can have you can record something so they can go back and they can listen to it again at their own pace, or it can translate something and so they can dictate, right?

And so it's really been very [00:54:00] advantageous for a lot of people, but technology can also be a major distractor. In fact, when we think about distractions tend to be more disruptors than sound. And our biggest distractor sometimes is our technology or constantly beeping phones. Or I don't know if you guys could see this the whole time I was presenting, I was getting an error message popping up on my screen.

Could you see that? Yeah, drove me insane, right? Like, and so it's like, I don't, I don't even know what that stupid thing. I don't even know, but those kinds of things, you know, they say that it takes 15 minutes to get to deep, meaningful thought yet on average in shared spaces were erupted every seven. And if you've got technology or ping or emails or text, you might get notices every two.

I feel like it's every two seconds, not every two minutes, but let's just say two minutes. Then it takes 20 minutes to get back to deep, meaningful thought, because now you have to remember, where was I? What was I thinking? Okay. What, what did I [00:55:00] read that sentence already? Blah, blah, blah, blah. And then you have to get immersed in it.

Right. And so our technology is creating this, this Digital do that is just overwhelming for a lot of people right now. People just feel like they can't keep up. And then we're zooming from one call to another. So we never had that moment just to process what we just did and or to breed. And then we're sitting stagnantly in one place, like staring at something all day.

So there's so many ways. I really think that if technology, you know, zoom would go down for a week, it might be, you know, the best thing that's happened to the planet.

[00:55:41] Kezia Lynch: Don't tell them that right now. That would be very.

[00:55:43] Kay Sargent: I won't tell them.

[00:55:45] Kezia Lynch: Speaking on the point of people kind of working from home and staying in the same place the whole time.

Obviously, people aren't commuting. That kind of brings me back to my original thought that about the conversation we had in Amsterdam last year around people not having that time. Space to [00:56:00] physically kind of get up and maybe move between meeting rooms. And, and, you know, zoom in, just sitting in the same spot all the time.

[00:56:06] Kay Sargent: And sitting stagnantly. Well, here's, here's, here's a statistic that I think is absolutely frightening. People are spending 252% more time on zoom calls. It's a lot. Now, what percentage of time that people are on zoom calls? And I keep seeing zoom what on virtual calls, do you think they're multitasking?

50%, 70%, a hundred percent. And the bottom one is we know we can't multitask. And so what's happening is you're trying to do two things at once. You're really not paying attention to either one. You're draining your brain at twice the rate because you're trying to do this. And you're, you're shifting back and forth and back and forth and back and forth.

You're taxing yourself. And then what you're producing, you're producing less. Slower [00:57:00] with poor quality. And so one of the big things that nobody wants to say is one of the reasons people want their employees back is that, yeah, you're busy, but are you really what is the quality of what you're actually producing?

And we have the highest rate of burnout ever. During the pandemic, because of that, and because people are moving or physically engaging. Right. And so I think there's a lot of things that we need to think about now, for some people, the ability to work remotely is a God sent, but I'm actually going to I'm going to argue a point.

There are some individuals that are saying that if you're hypersensitive, you should be able to work remotely, and that's a big reason why. And or if you are a minority and you feel like there are microaggressions in the workplace, you should be able to work remotely. And there are more women and minorities that are working remotely.

Okay, and they are [00:58:00] asking to do so at a higher rate. But I would say that that's not solving the problem. That's avoiding the problem. And it's creating another one because proximity biased is real. And just because you want to work from home. Or just because you might be hypersensitive, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're antisocial, and it doesn't necessarily mean that you are disciplined enough.

You know, a lot of people that are ADHD, they have short attention spans, they need feedback, they need direction, they need kind of that parotty, they need to stay on track, and sometimes left to their own devices, they'll either stall or procrastinate or whatever. So, so for some people, Working remotely has been a godsend for others.

It's been a disaster and we need to acknowledge that your ability to work from home has far less to do with what you just want and really what kind of work you're doing, [00:59:00] your abilities, the needs of your colleagues, and your individual needs as well.

[00:59:07] Kezia Lynch: Well, thank you Kay for sharing your expertise and experience with us today.

So much packed into a very short period of time. If you're feeling like you're going to after some operational excellence inspiration, there are the four previous webinars available on the Parkour website.

Have a great rest of your day, everyone.

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