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Inclusion at Work – By Debbie Taggio

You may have never heard of inclusion, so are oblivious to how inclusion at work affects you. Many use the word ‘inclusion’ interchangeably with diversity or equality, and as a culture, it includes those issues. But when focussed on in the round, inclusion helps to lessen workplace inequalities, encourages greater diversity and promotes equality of opportunities.

I’m sure many of you can recall a sense of exclusion, moments when you felt left out, other, different, weren’t appreciated or welcome. Inclusion is the opposite of that. It ensures you are safe to express who you are, or want to be, and shows appreciation for your contributions as an individual.

The three main strands of inclusion at work are:

  • Equality: this is about fair treatment of everyone and is often linked to legislation, The Equality Act 2010
  • Diversity is the mix of people
  • Inclusion is the culture in which the mix of people come to work, feel comfortable to be themselves, and can work in a way that suits them. Inclusion makes sure that everyone feels valued and also adds value to the business.

Why does inclusion at work matter?

Evidence shows that businesses who focus on building more inclusive cultures attract and retain a wider range of talent. This then empowers employees to think differently and share their experiences and perspectives.

Ways inclusion helps you at work

Inclusive cultures:

  • Enable colleagues to do things differently
  • Work in ways that suit them
  • Ensures their work/life balance is healthy by providing them with flexible working patterns
  • Provides employees with the tools they need to deliver their best for that particular company.
  • Helps the workforce to make a difference towards their wellbeing.

How does employee wellbeing link to inclusion at work?

An inclusive workplace supports employee wellbeing via its positive effects on an employee’s self-esteem, enhanced career achievements and progression, improved work/life balance, social connectivity and sense of belonging, reduced discrimination, prejudice and harassment.

Cultural and social identities form an integral part of our self-esteem and our self-worth and when an employer celebrates, encourages, and values each individual in the workplace, their self-esteem and self-worth are supported. This naturally leads to workers who are psychologically secure and well-adjusted.

Employee mental health is closely linked to their experience of inclusion and diversity at work, and one of the biggest threats to wellbeing is the issue of ‘emotional tax’. It has been found that employees pay an emotional tax at work if they are in an environment where they feel different. And whether that is down to gender, race, neurodiversity, or ethnicity, it has an acutely negative impact upon their mental health and wellbeing.

How to help your colleagues feel more included

Leadership from the top is essential, but all employees play a part in establishing an inclusive workplace. This can be achieved by:

  • Trying to understand other peoples’ points of view and help them understand yours
  • Challenge or report inappropriate behaviour
  • If you challenge others, do so respectfully
  • Make yourself aware of different cultures and customs
  • Respect the benefits diversity can bring
  • Respect confidentiality of your colleagues and customers
  • Deal with customers and colleagues in an ethical and lawful way and with respect at all times
  • Take responsibility for your own actions
  • Look for solutions to problems and try to resolve them constructively

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