Our Top Ten Ways to Make Your Workplace Inclusive

Oct 22, 2022 | #WelcomingSpaces

by Brennah Agnew and Isabella Chacon Chavez |

According to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, employers are required to make work and its rules as inclusive as possible to all employees. For young people entering the workforce for the first time, it is imperative that they feel comfortable in what is already an intimidating environment. By eliminating workplace stressors and creating an environment that is inclusive for everyone of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, abilities, sexualities, and identities, employees will be able to excel to their fullest capacities and enjoy the work they do. 

As youths and recent graduates entering the workforce and applying to jobs, we are seeking out companies that are like minded, and that are constantly adapting and modernizing their core values, prioritizing their employees’ mental well-being, and creating an all-around warm and welcoming environment. Since we spend a good portion of our lives in the workplace, we want to work somewhere that we’re comfortable in and feel accepted. 

Of course, there is always room for improvement, so we’ve put together a list of what we believe are the top ten ways to make your workplace a safe, inclusive and welcoming place for not only youth, but all employees working in that environment. 

1. Using pronouns in email signatures, introductions, or on name tags 

It’s natural to avoid asking questions that may make another person uncomfortable, isn’t it? One way that we can prevent assumptions or misconceptions about other people is by including pronouns in email signatures, on name tags, and in introductions. It’s encouraging to work in an environment that makes employees of all genders and sexualities feel included! Being aware of our coworkers’ pronouns allows us to be more inclusive without fear of making them feel uncomfortable. We want to work for an organization that encourages diversity and respects the unique identity of each employee. 

2. Promoting inclusive language, specifically when using honorifics. 

Every single person has a unique identity and life that they live completely separate to work—a life we may know nothing about! We can’t assume anything about anyone, and a great way to avoid making those assumptions is to use inclusive language in our everyday. This can be as easy as using they/them pronouns to address someone if they haven’t specified their pronouns. If your company uses honorifics to address executive members or employees, offer the option of Mx. Smith instead of Mr/Ms. Smith, since using titles to declare a gender, identity, or even someone’s marital status should not be a part of the workplace. If you really want to go the extra mile, get rid of the honorifics all together! Eliminate the age-old titles that enforce a power dynamic amongst employees. It’s 2022, let’s just start using people’s names! 


3. Pride flags and positive signage posted around the workplace.  

Having positive signage around us helps us feel welcomed and free to be ourselves. Remember, motivation helps performance. Embracing their identity and creating a connection with their company can help an employee to feel motivated. It also helps to remind everybody to be polite and kind in their workplace. Moreover, in addition to office decorations and visible reminders, adding extra training and information related to such signage will make the individual feel that these come hand in hand with their actual meaning, and notice that their coworkers and managers respect and embrace such implications. 

4. Require mandatory diversity and inclusion training for all employees and workers.  

Many workplaces already do this. Still, diversity training shouldn’t be done only once. Repetitive reinforcement of the information is better! Getting employees to do such activities once or twice a year will keep the information fresh in their memories and make them understand that the company emphasizes and cares about their employees. We would genuinely love to work for a company that takes diversity training seriously and keeps up to date on how to be welcoming to a variety of individuals. As mentioned in the point above, companies that genuinely embrace the meanings of diversity and give them the importance that they deserve are companies that we want to work for! 

5. Include holidays and events for all beliefs in the company calendar. 

Do you have a company calendar? Is that calendar accessible for every employee? If not, having a shared calendar for all employees is a great way to keep them connected and informed of the many beliefs present in your company. If the calendar is electronic, individuals can also add information about the date they are celebrating and how they would like others to approach them on such a day. For example, it would be great for an employee practicing Ramadan to let their coworkers know what they will be doing and how they would like to be approached (e.g., if they mind or don’t mind people coming into their offices with food while they are fasting). Having a calendar also facilitates communication, and communication positively benefits work performance.  

6. Flexible vacation to accommodate religion and holidays. 

To add to the last point, allowing flexible accommodations for employees to practice their beliefs can create a positive workplace for all. Multiple religions, holidays, and beliefs worldwide cannot be performed at work. Recognizing diverse holidays with a shared calendar is a great step but having designated vacations that accommodate the practices of your employees will go a step further and make them feel more motivated to work for your organization. After all, your employees’ emotional and physical well-being is vital for the development and performance of your company. Allowing employees to take time away from work strengthens the respect of your team and creates understanding or even learning opportunities for all.  

7. Pay attention to WHO your external partners are.  

As the saying goes, you are judged on the company that you keep. Try as you might, your reputation and how you are perceived in the world is reflected in the friends you have or the people you associate with. So why would the workplace be any different? Employees, potential business partners, and consumers judge your company and your values based on the external partners you do business with. A company that preaches environmental sustainability, clean energy, and responsible consumerism, yet partners with external donors who work in the oil and gas industry and profit off the main contribution to climate change is a bit contradictory. In our opinion, external partnerships such as these are more detrimental to the company because they create dishonesty and disingenuous intentions between the employer and its employees. Companies who are genuine with their actions and don’t just pay lip service to attract certain credentials to their companies are companies that we want to work for. 

8. Flexible dress codes.  

This one is exactly how it sounds – loosen up the dress codes already! Your employees will perform better if they feel comfortable in what they are wearing. Many people express their gender identity through clothing, so establishing flexibility with the dress code will break the assumed tie between professionalism and gender norms. Providing gender neutral uniform options or flexible guidelines is a more inclusive approach that will help support employee mental health and avoid the potential gender dysphoria that your employee could be experiencing. While this should be the main priority, for those of you concerned about the impact a flexible dress code could have on your company, by prioritizing your employees’ mental health, you will receive their peak performance levels for the price you are paying. Furthermore, affordability is key! Youth entering the workplace do not have a lot of financial room to be spending a fortune on a work wardrobe! When a new hire arrives, find and recommend local thrift stores that they could find clothing that fits the dress code, or set aside a portion of the budget for each employee to spend on work appropriate clothing. Feeling good when you show up to work helps the mental and physical wellness of the overall workplace! 

9. Frequent encouragement and recognition for all employees 

Who doesn’t want to hear that they are doing great, especially when it comes from an executive leader? When it comes to the workplace, don’t be so stingy with the compliments! As you have seen from the last nine points, language matters, and how you say it is just as important. Encouraging team members to keep up the great work or finding small ways to recognize every person in an appropriate, respectful manner is a great way to keep team morale up! For example, recognition at the beginning of a team meeting is a great way for not only the head of the team to recognize the hard work being put in, but also for them to hear about the behind-the-scenes efforts that their employees are making. The encouragement for small and ‘less significant’ actions goes a long way in bolstering employee confidence and building relationships amongst your team! 

10. Physically accessible for all  

Yes! We still have to say this because it is still an issue! Ensuring that there are elevators or ramps alongside any stairs within your workplace is an essential part of creating an inclusive workplace. If we have to come into the office to work, we most definitely expect that there is a way to enter the building properly or access the lunchroom when we are on break! Additionally, access to gender neutral washrooms is just as important as elevator access or a flexible dress code. We don’t want to be forced into a gender binary if we don’t identify with either. Gender neutral washrooms allow everyone to feel comfortable and safe. Ultimately, the best way to make sure your work environment is accessible for everyone is consult those who require accessible features. Consultation is key to making sure everyone is heard and considered! 

Through these ten suggestions, we hope that you can understand the overall theme of acceptance. Young people want to enter a workplace each day and find it filled with joy, love, compassion, dedication, and drive. There can be spaces that have competition and hard work, but that also have understanding and inclusivity. We spend so much time at work with our co-workers and our employers, it is necessary and important to make these environments a safe learning place for all to come and thrive in – trust us, incorporating at least one of these suggestions will only be beneficial!  

Brennah Agnew

Brennah Agnew

CEI Youth Advisory Group Member, 2021-22


Brennah Agnew, originally from Ottawa, achieved a BA in Aquatic Resources, Public Policy, and Social Research at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. While there, she uncovered a passion for social change and climate justice advocacy. Now a recruiter for StFX, Brennah enjoys working with youth on their journey to post-secondary education while striving to foster a more equitable and sustainable society.

Isabella Chacon Chavez

Isabella Chacon Chavez

CEI Youth Advisory Group Member, 2021-22


Isabella Chavez is a Bachelor of Psychology student currently living in New Minas, Nova Scotia. As an immigrant herself, she is passionate about the inclusion of immigrants in the workplace and hopes to make sure that immigrants are not underestimated in their abilities because of their language skills or where they’re from.