Ban all meetings before 10am or after 4.30pm": workplace hacks for inclusivity

In the midst of a wave of talk and not enough action, how can brands and agencies build a more inclusive workplace, asks the co-founder of Utopia and Token Man.

I have now spoken to many businesses about diversity and they all say the same thing: we are still struggling to make diversity work. They’ve set up LGBT, BAME, women’s groups, they have held all companies meetings on the business case for diversity, and they have recruited young diverse talent. But the young people leave and the leadership is still predominantly male and white. Although everyone believes in diversity, it is simply not happening quickly enough.

Now let’s be clear – the fault is not with diversity.  Having a diverse business where a diversity of ideas is embraced is the only way for business success. The fault is with a basic misunderstanding – diversity is only possible if you have an inclusive culture in the first place. If you hire a young creative woman into a department of 80 male creatives you may well be ticking a diversity box, but will her voice really be heard and her work bought or will she just leave and go to a business in which she will feel more at home?

The inclusion agenda

While diversity represents the mix of talent in the business, inclusion represents the behaviours that welcome that diversity and ensure that they have a equal voice in the business. As Google's leadership and organisational development lead Meghan Shakar said so concisely: "Diversity is the ingredients and inclusion is the recipe." And let’s face it without the recipe all you have are some eggs, flour and butter, who don’t really know how to work together.

So what can you do to help deliver a more inclusive workplace? Over the last 12 months we have been on a crusade to inspire a hacker culture within business. I don’t mean computer hacking – I’m talking about empowering people who are actively looking for ways to make things better. This hacker culture can best be described as a group of individuals who enjoy the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming and circumventing limitations of systems to achieve novel and clever outcomes.

Perhaps the best example of a hack to help deliver diversity in the workplace was the use of screens by orchestras in the 1970s in hiring musicians to get rid of the gender bias that was inherent in hiring talent.

So with national inclusion week in full swing, I thought it would be useful to share some of the top hacks we have uncovered across our travels, across five key areas. It is worth noting that these hacks will not necessarily work in isolation but through implementing a number of the hacks, you will see some change happening, albeit slowly. Ultimately they are going to be far more effective when implemented as part of a committed inclusion strategy that has support from the chief executive and the board:

1. Combatting unconscious bias

Unconscious bias can be described as bias that we are unaware of, and which happens outside of our control, triggered by our brain making quick decisions. It is perhaps the biggest barrier to inclusion in the workplace.


  • Ensure that every candidate is interviewed by a diverse group of people

  • Remove names and passions from cvs before reviewed

  • Interview via Whatsapp

2. Providing greater support for parents

It is hard juggling a job while being a parent and is probably the single biggest driver of talent loss in the business. It needn’t be this way – speak to any working mum, and they will tell you how much more productive they become and so much better at their job.


  • Provide a pay review to anyone returning from extended parental leave

  • Increase paternity leave to six weeks fully paid (with another six weeks unpaid) and provide bespoke training for expectant fathers as well as mothers

  • Offer flexible working to all new parents as standard

  • Ban all meetings before 10am or after 4.30pm

3. Flexible working for all

The best way to make parents feel included is to open flexible working to everyone. It will also make your business far more attractive to a new generation of talent who want to have flexibility to do other things.


  • Offer all new starters a choice of a three-day/four-day or five-day contract

  • Provide 12 days of "mobile office" per year – choose where you want to work at these days

  • Make it compulsory for everyone to work flexibly one month a year

4. Celebrating people from all backgrounds – because our differences are what make us interesting


  • Rather than just celebrate Christmas and Easter, make a point to celebrate festivals from all major religions – Diwali, Passover, Ramadan, Guru Nanak and Vesak (I am sure there are more)

  • Celebrate diversity through food – have food culture days

  • Replace Friday night drinks with something more inclusive (that does not involve booze or hours that exclude parents or carers)

  • Find new tribes – think about where you are sourcing your talent and become part of solving the issue by supporting the likes of The Ideas Foundation

5. Ensure that your workplace is accessible to all

People with disabilities are usually experts in is adaptation, creative solutions and hacking. Making efforts not to exclude employees with disabilities is as logical as making efforts not to exclude women. And making these efforts isn’t as hard as it may initially seem:


  • Invest in training for the HR team: there are plenty of cost effective resources available from the likes of Purple Space, The Business Disability Forum and Scope.

  • Language can also be a barrier, so test out your recruitment process and customer journey with people who have different skill levels.

  • Invite a group of people who identify as disabled to come and experience your environment, They will be able to identify where the opportunities for improvement are

And finally one small hack that I promise will make a huge difference. Let’s stop calling it "diversity and inclusion" and rather focus on "Inclusion and diversity".

Daniele Fiandaca, co-founder of Utopia and Token Man

Subscribe today for just $116 a year

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free