2019 – The Year of Tolerance for interior designers

Four ways to ensure diversity and inclusivity in design and build

If you really think about it, UAE’s Year of Tolerance has interesting implications for workspace interior designers. It means moving away from homogenous, cookie-cutter offices for one.

Business leaders will be thinking diversity and inclusion in the workplace, not just profit and productivity…or about the latest Porsche model. While they wake up and smell the coffee, how can interior designers integrate diversity into workspaces during their discovery, design and delivery phases?

Think personalisation: that means empathy and understanding the difference in the attitude, behaviours and lifestyles of different demographics. Women want to show off souvenirs of their romantic trip to Bali or their brat’s latest drawings. They want to display bric-a-brac, share chocos, hang their sweaters and shawls, and store their work stilettos, make up, and hygiene products. Millennials want edgy Insta spots, social spaces and green workspaces. People in wheelchairs or those vertically challenged want adjustable heights that widths that help them access everything quickly, are ergonomic and don’t hinder mobility. Because of the diversity in age or mental health, people will appreciate technology that gives them full control over light, heat, glare and noise…and opens doors easily!

Think multiculturalism: there’s a call to celebrate cultural diversity year-around. Designers can create multipurpose social spaces or integrate elements into open plans to help teams quickly celebrate Easter or Movember or UAE National Day. These spaces can include easy options and tools to quickly put up buntings or posters or a talk or a skit or even a fashion show. And the celebrations can all be beamed on large screens and recorded, quickly made available to the Insta crowd.

Think facilities: Can we create rooms for new mothers – so that they can breast pump or speak to the nanny or babysitter in peace? Does the business have appetite for a nursery? How about creating rooms for siesta – prevalent in many cultures worldwide? Do we need ethnic pantries to eat durian and reheat fried fish and spicy curries so that lunchtime does not become a simmering battleground? Besides the toilets, are entrances, corridors, pantries and learning centres, designed with people of determination in mind? Do they need separate access? Do we need toilets for the genderfluid?

Think layouts: rather than fit everybody tightly into a given space and sigh with relief, designers will need to think more about who needs to be in a space and why. You want to tuck away the new mothers’ room discreetly, space out the men’s and ladies’ washrooms so that people don’t sheepishly collide with each other outside, ensure people with mobility issues have the least distance to cover to frequently accessed services.

There are many more ways we can integrate diversity and inclusivity into workspaces. Care to venture your thoughts?

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