How To Create An Inclusive Workplace

Updated January 17, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Now more than ever, employees are looking for workplaces that make them feel accepted, welcome, and safe. Diversity and inclusion are essential values that many businesses are increasingly prioritizing. Though, despite intentional efforts, creating an inclusive work environment does not happen overnight. 

Making changes in a workplace environment requires actionable steps implemented from leaders within a company. If creating an inclusive workplace is your goal, this article will cover practical steps you can begin implementing in your own company. 

What Is Inclusivity And Why Is It Important?

Inclusivity is defined as the fact or policy of not excluding anyone based on their gender, race, class, sexuality, or disability. Often times you hear inclusion and diversity used interchangeably but there is a distinct difference. Diversity in the workplace refers to the variation in personal, physical, and social characteristics. Inclusivity in the workplace refers to the methods a company may take to make diversity work.

Inclusion can help create a space of belonging and acceptance. We all have different needs, interests, personalities, and identities and while everyone should ideally be accepted exactly as they are, this isn’t always the case. People have been treated poorly and put at a disadvantage because of their differences. 

When we make inclusion a priority in the workplace, tolerance of such differences can grow into acceptance and awareness. Individuals can feel empowered to be their true selves when they feel included in their workplace, and this can boost overall productivity. 

You Deserve To Feel Seen & Appreciated In The Workplace

The Characteristics Of An Inclusive Workplace

Most people want to show up to work and feel comfortable enough to be themselves. Although a workplace can have policies in place that may limit certain forms of self-expression (such as a uniform or hair color restrictions), there are still ways to show employees that they are accepted as they are.

The characteristics of a diverse and inclusive workplace can vary, and there is a lot of freedom when deciding what your workplace will look and feel like. An inclusive workplace can include the following characteristics mentioned below. 

Openness to change: In order to create a more inclusive workplace, there should be an openness to change and improvement in the work environment. When workplaces are closed off to change or fearful of it, any effort made is at risk of fizzling out or making little difference. 

Diversity: Workplace diversity can increase innovation, creativity, flexibility, productivity, and collaboration. Work environments that value diversity will usually have employees with a wide range of talents, thought processes, personalities, and skills. There should be diversity at every level within the company, including different cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles, among other identities.

Resources: Employees need to know that their company’s leaders care about their well-being beyond being productive workers. Inclusive workplaces attempt to provide their employees with as many resources as possible, whether educational or otherwise. 

Some workplaces even have diversity and inclusion groups as a resource for their employees to confide in when they are concerned.

Respect: When employees know they’re respected at their place of work, they feel valued and important. This can increase their productivity and create a more cooperative environment. Inclusive workplaces focus on respect by observing the different perspectives of their employees and taking the time to understand their viewpoint.

Fairness: Everyone deserves to be treated equally at work no matter what their title is. When employees are recognized because of what they’ve accomplished and not because of their position, they’re more likely to feel pride in their work.

Curiosity: Asking questions is paramount for creating a deeper understanding of potential problem areas and things that may need to change. When we assume no adjustments need to be made, we risk stagnation which can decrease productivity.

Cooperation and teamwork: Inclusive workplaces focus on teamwork and healthy cooperation, even in the face of disagreements. They recognize that seeing things differently is a chance for growth.

Ability to voice concerns: Every employee should feel that they have a voice at work and that their opinion matters despite their title or years employed at the company. Inclusive workplaces take these concerns to heart and, rather than simply expressing their apologies, they work to create change through tangible action. 

There are many more examples of inclusion in the workplace but looking for these can be a great place to start. It is something every employer should strive to have, as well as each employee. Building a diverse and inclusive work environment does take time, effort, and learning, but it’s always worth the potential positive outcomes.

Non-Inclusive Workplace Characteristics

Developing an inclusive workplace is ideal though not every company or organization fosters one. Some of us may even be employed at non-inclusive workplaces but the signs might not be so obvious. 

Examples of exclusion in the workplace could include: 

Avoiding hard conversations: A non-inclusive workplace may have a culture where difficult conversations or healthy conflict is not encouraged or nurtured. This environment would include management that refuses to take action to address issues.

Harassment: Another sign of a non-inclusive workplace would be harassment, and this could be expressed verbally, psychologically, and physically. Employees may face discrimination or harassment because of their race, age, gender, sexual orientation, or other identity markers. Any form of harassment is illegal and should be reported to your human resources department. 

Micromanaging: This type of behavior refers to an employer who tries to control every aspect of a situation or project including the small details. Micromanaging prevents employees from having autonomy over their own decisions, timeline, or workload and it relies complete authority rather than collaboration. 

Lack of diversity: A non-inclusive workplace may have a workforce that is homogenous, lacking staff from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. 

After considering characteristics of both inclusive and non-inclusive workplaces, you may resonate with one or the other, or both. However, before you apply for a new job, it could be helpful to voice your concerns to your employer.

Sometimes employers aren’t always aware of the culture they’ve created. Management that genuinely cares for their employees will take these concerns to heart and try to make the environment more inclusive for everyone. 

The Impact Of Non-Inclusive Workplaces

Non-inclusive workplaces can have adverse impact on physical and mental health, and below are some examples of these effects:

  • Less cooperation
    Decreased productivity

  • Stunted company growth

  • Lack of trust

Some non-inclusive workplaces can be difficult to identify. One way to know whether an employer prioritizes inclusion is to look at their values and mission statement as well as the people they employ. 

Feeling excluded at work can contribute to mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Employees may feel lonely or isolated, especially if they don’t have support in their workplace. When someone is experiencing work-related mental health challenges, they may be unable to concentrate, which may ultimately contribute to reduced productivity. 

Creating An Environment With Mental Health Awareness

Employers can help turn things around by ensuring that their workplace promotes acceptance, inclusion, and belonging. Not only will these steps improve the mental health of employees, but they will make the organization more productive and profitable as well. When inclusion is prioritized, everyone benefits from it.

The Impact of Language on Inclusivity

Inclusivity goes beyond actions. Language is a very powerful tool that can encourage inclusivity in the workplace. Being sensitive to the language you use can promote inclusion, respect, acceptance, and belonging. Below are a few tips on how to use inclusive language at the workplace and in your everyday life.

Use neutral language: Instead of using gendered terms or biased words, aim for neutral terms that anyone could relate to. 

Avoid contributing to stigma: Using phrases like “OCD,” “PTSD,” or “depressed” to describe day-to-day challenges or moods can hurt those who live with these very real conditions. Seemingly harmless figures of speech can be non-inclusive and can stigmatize the reality of people who live with these mental health disorders.  

Use person-first terminology: Instead of describing someone as a disabled person, recognize that they are a person with a disability. In this way, you make it clear that you see them as a person first and that their disability does not define them.

Listen: If someone voices concerns about the language you are using, pause and reflect. It could be a learning opportunity and a chance to make changes. 

Even the most well-intentioned people can unknowingly cause harm with the language they use. The goal is not perfection but progress. If you make a mistake, no problem, simply apologize and take it as a learning opportunity. With time, using language that empowers everyone will become easier. 

How To Be Inclusive At Work

Here are some examples of inclusive practices in the workplace that you may consider implementing.

Post inclusion tips in a communal space at the office: Not everyone will be familiar with best practices for an inclusive workplace. You can help them out by offering plenty of resources. Consider posting information around the office or leaving it in the breakroom.

Use inclusive language: Whether it’s in the monthly newsletter or daily emails, using inclusive language at every opportunity can encourage your employees to do the same. 

Create connection: Creating opportunities for connection among your employees can help foster a sense of belonging in the workplace. You can host mixers and other events that bring everyone together. 

Give options: Some employees like to work remotely, while others need social stimulation. Some want to talk a lot and lead, while others would instead work in the background. When you give your employees a chance to choose, there is a greater chance they will be more productive since they’re in an environment that’s comfortable.

Ask for feedback: You may think your workplace is great as it is, but your employees may feel differently. You can gather feedback, even secretly, to gauge how everyone feels about the work culture and make adjustments as needed. 

Inclusion at work is just as important as everywhere else. It should be something to strive for no matter where you are or who you’re with. The more people feel included and accepted, the better world we can create. 

You Deserve To Feel Seen & Appreciated In The Workplace

How Online Therapy Can Help With Non-Inclusive Workplaces

Creating an inclusive workplace takes time, effort, and consistency. If you’re new to the process, you may consider talking to someone about it. At BetterHelp, you’ll be matched with a mental health professional who is trained to help support you as you navigate the challenges that may come along with changing workplace culture. 

At BetterHelp, you can speak to a licensed therapist online and from the comfort of your home. You could even schedule an appointment with a therapist from your mobile device during your lunch break.

Whether you’re navigating your workplace or home life, a BetterHelp therapist can offer you the extra help you’ve been needing. You will need a Wi-Fi connection, some type of device, and a comfortable, safe place to meet with your therapist. Once you’re ready to begin the process of receiving care with BetterHelp, be sure to reach out to get started. 


Creating an inclusive workplace is possible through implementation of the actionable steps listed above. We can be mindful of our language, and we can take a moment to reflect on ways we can do better. Mindfulness is the first step towards change. BetterHelp is here to assist you, as a leader in your workplace, to make real change in your workplace.

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