Gender Neutral Workspace Design

Gender Neutral Work-Space Design and Certification

Diversity Australia specialises in gender equality, gender parity and gender neutrality design workspaces. As more and more women ascend to professional and leadership positions, businesses and organisations have striven to create cultures and provide environments that accommodate both sexes without favouritism.

What often is lacking in these efforts is a clear vision of what constitutes gender equality or neutrality, especially in the design of the physical environment. As workers gravitate toward social settings, apart from home and work, new and re-positioned “office buildings” will make room for them. Gender Neutrality, openness and connection to adjoining buildings and districts will gain importance.

As mobile workers switch between office space and “third place” alternatives, owners and developers that focus on transit-served, mixed-use districts may have an edge in attracting them particularly as we face the blended workplace practices that need to engage all levels. The demand for gender neutral zones and workplace flexibility will be reinforced by buildings that let organisations, teams, and individuals shape space on the move using space as an augmented reality. Faster space adaptability and unification will be the norm, and buildings will reflect this in form, structure, interior volume, façades, and services.

As space will become more democratic as flatter, innovation-hungry organisations embrace agile, autonomous teams that are directly accountable for their results and in harmony with their surroundings.

National Codes Of Practice

For workplaces within buildings, the National Construction Code of Australia sets out the ratio of toilets to the number of workers, and the specifications for toilets. Generally, separate toilets should be provided in workplaces where there are both male and female workers. However, one unisex toilet may be provided in workplaces with both male and female workers where:

❖ the total number of people who normally work at the workplace is 10 or less

❖ there are two or less workers of one gender.

For example, a workplace with two male and eight female workers or with one female and three male workers could have a unisex toilet because there are 10 or fewer workers in total and two or fewer workers of one gender. A unisex toilet should include one closet pan, one washbasin and means for disposing of sanitary items. For all other workplaces, separate toilets should be provided as per the ratios required.

These ratios are the minimum standard that should be provided. However, in some workplaces, the scheduling of workers’ breaks will affect the number of toilets required. There should be enough toilets available for the number of workers who may need to use them at the same time.

The Changing Workforce

The rising numbers of LGBTQI, freelance and contract workers will have a design and operational impact as organisations seek to integrate them. Likewise, given the ubiquity of the mobile workplace, people will expect to maintain such primary workplace values as health, engagement, brand, and work mode support—wherever they choose to work.

The need for geographically distributed teams within global organisations to work together effectively is complicated by language and cultural differences. Giving collaboration tools real-time translation capability could help. Automation, which may prove to be both a boon and a threat to workers, is an emerging issue that will grow in importance in the next decade.

Design and future proofing the futures workforce needs has become more important than ever as the rapidly changing workplace settings cater to all Diverse Employees. Some recent studies offer guidance on factors that can affect perceptions of gender neutrality.

From colours to spatial relationships, thermal comfort to navigation and way finding, much research has been conducted on how men and women perceive and react to the physical environment differently. These studies point out ways that designers can try to accommodate the needs or preferences of each sex, such as using more “neutral” colours, providing personal comfort controls, integrating multiple visual systems for navigating and way finding, and allowing individuals to personalise their space.

A socially inclusive society is defined as one where all people feel valued, their differences are respected, and their basic needs are met so they can live in dignity. Social inclusion allows people with all abilities to belong, feel informed, connected and contribute to society socially, culturally, economically and politically. Social Inclusion should be seen as an active process of integration, adaptation and ongoing change. Additionally, inclusive practices should be responsive to the needs of all employees, staff and external stakeholders.

An organisation that encourages diversity recognises and values differences such as gender, ethnicity, age, religion, nationality and sexuality. Diversity also entails the respect of personal traits such as life experience, career choices, educational background and communication style. In fact, diversity refers to respecting all that which may influence an individual’s personal experiences.

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