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The Importance of Safety and Inclusivity in the Workplace: Insights from Sense and Forum

Kind To Mind had the privilege of interviewing Sense and Forum, an organisation run by fellow female entrepreneur Serena Gasparini. We focused on the importance of safe and inclusive workplaces and the difference this can make to someone's mental health.

Here at Sense & Forum, we’re passionate about creating communities that grow and thrive together. Founded with a mission to create inclusive spaces that provide individuals with the support and tools they need to thrive, we recognise the struggles of working with a variety of people with different mental, physical and access needs. We take a no-nonsense human-centred approach – your success is our success!

Tell us a bit about Sense and Forum and why you set up this business/organisation/mission. After experiencing a pretty huge curveball in late 2019 – Depression and BurnouT. I had to make a massive change to build the life that I knew my mind and body craved. I needed a business where I could serve my dream clients with joy and flexibility – whilst also remaining true to my values. We believe that everyone should have access to resources that promote well-being, and that communities play a crucial role in fostering individual growth and development. Everything we do is underpinned by our brand values – Celebration, Community, Care, Creativity and Communication.

Many workplaces are struggling with increased workloads, stress, and burnout, as well as increasingly diverse and multicultural teams. You recently published an article discussing the importance of safety and inclusivity in the workplace. What does safety and inclusivity in the workplace look like?

Safety and inclusivity in the community, a workplace, sports club, mothers support group or local business meetup, looks like an environment in which individuals feel valued, respected, and supported. This means that members feel free to express themselves without fear of retaliation or discrimination. It also means that the space is free from harassment, bias, and prejudice. A safe and inclusive community is one where diversity is celebrated, and everyone is treated with dignity and respect. A community should provide a safe space to allow people to come together and break down barriers created by old ways of thinking - the constructs of life that have us thinking that 9-5 Monday to Friday is the only way to work.

What is the importance of safety and inclusivity in the workplace? Everyone should be made to feel safe and included in the community and the workplace. Not only does this promote well-being in the individuals, but a well-cared for group is a happy group! Those who feel genuinely connected with their community are more likely to be more productive and focused. Fostering an environment where diverse perspectives are valued and encouraged also promotes creativity and innovation – championing change into the future. Any organisation that makes the effort to create a safe and inclusive community will be popular, therefore boosting its reputation as well as fulfilling its legal and ethical obligations. When you take the time to invest in setting up a community, you really invest in the future and reap so many benefits!

Kind To Mind delivers multiple workplace mental health trainings - do you have any suggestions for promoting further safety and inclusion in our work? It’s important to ensure that you’re keeping open lines of communication with those who may be getting involved with your events and workshops. Are you checking the accessibility needs of your attendees before an event takes place?

If the event is in-person, have you considered physical access needs, such as lighting, access routes and music or sound? Can a room be set up as a quiet room for those with sensory needs, and is there a changing places facility available for those who require one? Do you need to arrange a Sign Language interpreter for those with hearing loss?

If the event is online, have you ensured that you’ve provided information on the agenda, how to access the event and what’s expected of participants? Have you enabled the ability for automatic closed captions on your streaming service? Seemingly small alterations to your planning of workshops and other such events can provide a massive book to diversity, equality and inclusion.

Throughout all community activity, it’s crucial to identify who you’re working with and the different perspectives, experiences of bias and discrimination that each individual brings.

At Sense and Form creating these safe spaces is crucial to the work we deliver and we wrote an article on this early this year, you can find out more tips and advice here.

Are there any simple strategies that workplaces can adopt to improve safety and inclusivity in the workplace, and how do you do this in your line of work?

In line with the above, it’s vital to ensure that you’re asking your community members or employees questions and getting all the information you can for your team to create a space that’s safe for them. If you come across a topic that you’re not familiar with such as a specific health issue or mental health issue, take the time to research it and learn how to genuinely support the person in a positive way. Don’t assume that what you think you know about something is fact – develop honest, open communication with the individual or individuals as each person’s needs are different. When it comes to promoting safety and inclusion, it’s all about awareness and learning, as well as being prepared to change the way you think about a topic. When you are genuinely supportive, you help each person in the community to flourish and encourage the community to shape to fit them, rather than the other way around. Work with the needs of the person, not against, and provide opportunities for everyone to contribute.

We like to open up the topic surrounding mental health at Kind To Mind, and so we ask all of our guests the following question: What do you do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis to take care of your mental wellbeing?

We prioritise mental well-being by promoting self-care and a healthy work-life balance for all of the team. For me, this involves taking every Wednesday off as a chance to give myself a mental health break and fully embrace the four-day working week. I set boundaries with my clients and let them know how to communicate with me in a way that works for us both. I try, where possible, to work with my energy and allow myself to listen to the needs of my body and mind on any given day. The same goes for my team – nobody can perform all the time. We’re very much human-first here at Sense and Forum, and we’re improving our methods on a daily basis.

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