Inclusive work environment: What are its benefits and how can HR influence it?

Inclusive work environment: What are its benefits and how can HR influence it?

Equality, diversity, inclusion. Topics often mentioned in various society-wide initiatives, but so far neglected when it comes to their application in practice. It is an important part of a modern corporate culture that every company should strive for. In this article, we will therefore look at the benefits of creating an inclusive work environment by involving people with disabilities and how HR can help.

An inclusive work environment is not just a fashion trend, but a necessary condition for the sustainable development of companies in today's competitive environment. It creates space for diversity and enables every employee to bring value to the company and feel supported regardless of their identity and life situation.

Roughly 10% of the population in the Czech Republic has a disability or disadvantage, of which at least 500 000 are of working age. Although companies are now more inclined to employ these people than ever before, there are still prejudices and fears in society about how to integrate such employees into the workforce without having a negative impact on the company.

Benefits of an inclusive work environment 

However, there is no need to worry, because the advantages of employing people with disabilities outweigh any perceived disadvantages. This is confirmed by companies where employing disabled people is common practice. Among such companies is B+N Czech Republic Facility Services s.r.o., which has been employing people with disabilities since 2007. Since 2018, they have also been a recognised employer on the sheltered labour market and currently provide employment opportunities for 63 persons with disabilities. 

Why did they decide to promote an inclusive work environment? "It started with meeting the quota under the Employment Act. But over time, we found that there are many benefits to employing people with disabilities, such as promoting diversity, social responsibility, filling part-time positions or employee loyalty. In fact, my experience is that these people are grateful for the job opportunities and bring positivity and motivation to the work environment," says HR Director Petra Jordánová, who has years of experience with this issue in her HR practice.

In the same breath, she adds that people often think of a person with a disability as someone in a wheelchair or someone with limited mobility, but this category also includes people with internal problems whose disabilities are not visible at first glance. "Company executives don't have to worry about having to immediately redesign their offices to make them wheelchair accessible. For example, a person with a disability can also be a person with Crohn's disease whose health condition does not require any major interventions in the working environment," Petra explains. 

HR as the main vehicle for inclusion

Even more important than the decision to employ people with disabilities is the communication of this change to existing employees. And this is something that in most cases is handled by the HR department. "People generally don't like change, so you need to explain everything to employees in a transparent way. Tell them why the company wants to employ these people, what the benefits are for the company, how it may affect them initially and what demands will be placed on them. But the managers of the teams that will be recruiting people with disabilities should also be involved in the transformation itself, because they are the ones who can best transfer their enthusiasm and motivation to their subordinates."

The HR manager has to participate in creating a safe environment for newcomers, but also has to think about not negatively affecting others. In short, the HR manager is a key player in creating an inclusive work environment.

At B+N Czech Republic Facility Services s.r.o., sharing the life stories of people with disabilities or informing them about nominations for various competitions helps in internal communication. "Our main task as HR is to be the mediator who defends the interests and explains the new situation to both existing employees and new employees with disabilities. Sharing life stories helps to empathise with the functioning of these people and to better understand what they have differently than others," says Petra. 

Inclusive work environment improves company image

Of course, inclusion shouldn't just be a trending topic, but improving a company's image is certainly one of the benefits it brings. According to Petra Jordánová, it can be seen from two perspectives. "On the one hand, it's a view from inside the company, where employees see that we don't put anyone on the back burner; on the contrary, we value employees with disabilities and promote them through the aforementioned competitions."

From the outside, such a company looks good because it shows that it is interested in social responsibility and strives to meet its ESG objectives. And it's not just the view of customers, partners, suppliers or the media, but also of potential candidates who see that the company has an inclusive work environment.

Therefore, employing people with disabilities is not only a matter of charity, but also a strategic decision that can strengthen the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of the company. Providing equal opportunities for all employees, regardless of their health status, is an investment not only in the future of the company, but also in a better society as a whole. 

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