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Report #556 |

Bridging the Spatial Divide: A Guide to Achieving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Physical Work Environments

Credit unions should consider how physical workplace design and policies can affect workers of diverse backgrounds. They must consider this and implement strategies to enhance their physical workplaces in order to capture the full benefits of DEI initiatives.

  • Bukky Akinsanmi Oyedeji Assistant Professor of Management, McCombs School of Business at University of Texas at Austin
  • Chadé Darby PhD Student, Organizational Behavior at Cornell University, The ILR School

Executive Summary

As credit unions continue to push for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in all aspects of their operations, examining how underlying, often-ignored factors in the physical work environment can affect DEI initiatives is critical. An effective DEI strategy must consider how physical workplace design and the process through which it is created foster and support workers of diverse backgrounds so that credit unions can capture the full benefits of their initiatives. 

This report identifies evidence-based and actionable steps that can support credit unions in their effort to make their physical work environments more conducive to advancing DEI. These findings are broken into three key categories:

  • Planning and programming: Rely on diverse suppliers and information providers to help identify key elements in creating an inclusive design model.
  • Physical configuration and design: Balance universal design principles and community-building elements with opportunities for staff personalization and privacy.
  • Policies, procedures, and provisions: Build a cohesive set of policies that are reflective of the varying needs of all staff and contribute to inclusivity, productivity, and fair outcomes.

Why It Matters—A Credit Union Perspective

For even the most knowledgeable credit union leaders, it’s easy to fall into the trap of considering diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, and our related efforts, through a narrow scope. This research provides an important reminder that in order to be truly inclusive organizations, DEI considerations need to permeate all our operations, efforts, and decision making. 

Reviewing our physical spaces and committing to changes that create an improved sense of belonging will help us support and retain a workforce and membership base that is diverse and dynamic.
Jenna M. Rosenberg
VP + Chief Governance & Strategy Officer
Visions Federal Credit Union

This report prompts credit unions to consider the impact that the physical workspaces and branches have on individuals and how bringing this awareness to design efforts can make a meaningful difference for inclusivity. Credit union leaders should embrace this knowledge as it relates to employees, members, and our communities. Although inclusivity is often woven into the fabric of credit unions, it’s important to bring more intentionality and research insights to those efforts. Reviewing physical spaces and committing to changes that create an improved sense of belonging will help support and retain a workforce and membership base that is diverse and dynamic.

Download the report and accompanying guidelines now to integrate inclusivity into your spatial development, from planning to configuration to procedures.

Filene and the authors thank Momentum for helping to make this important research possible.

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