Practical frameworks for equity and inclusion in workplace design

Achieving equity and inclusion in the workplace is a multifaceted challenge that requires more than just goodwill; it necessitates a structured approach that integrates practical frameworks into the design of workspaces and operational systems.

Primary industries including agriculture, fishing, forestry, mining and energy, with their complex environments and historically homogenous workforce, particularly stand to benefit significantly from adopting such frameworks. These frameworks not only pave the way for a more diverse and inclusive workforce but also contribute to safer, more productive, and engaging workplaces.

Structured approach to DEI efforts

Diversity and inclusion efforts often falter without a clear, actionable plan that considers the varied needs of a diverse workforce. A structured approach to design can help organisations systematically identify barriers to inclusion and develop targeted solutions.

This is especially critical in primary industry, where the physical and operational challenges are unique and can disproportionately affect underrepresented groups.

Example workplace design process for a mining company:

Identify user groups:

Start by gathering data on the current and potential workforce to understand the diverse needs of employees. This includes considering factors such as age, gender, physical and non-physical abilities, race, socio-economic background and more.

This might also involve assessing the needs of FIFO (Fly-In-Fly-Out) workers, local and regional community members, and international staff.

Gather research:

Conduct research to gather insights on best practices and existing standards that can inform the design process. This could involve reviewing guidelines on ergonomic equipment design for different physical characteristics, understanding accessible digital technologies, and inclusive communication strategies. Industry is encouraged to seek out information from other sectors, collaborate on findings, and look internationally at leading practice.


Engage a broad range of employees in the design process to ensure that their perspectives and needs are reflected in the solutions developed. This principle, “nothing for us without us,” ensures that those most affected by design decisions have a say in their creation.

Options analysis:

Evaluate the potential solutions based on their impact on different user groups, cost-effectiveness, likely efficacy and alignment with the organisation’s goals. This step might include analysing the return on investment for ergonomic improvements in machinery or office design or the benefits of introducing more flexible work arrangements on access to a broader potential skill base.

Monitoring and feedback:

Implement the chosen solutions and establish mechanisms for ongoing monitoring and feedback. This allows for continuous improvement and adaptation as the workforce and operational needs evolve. Monitoring should involve analysis of the actual impact of the solutions, and include intersectional data wherever possible.

Overcoming DEI challenges in primary industries

Implementing these frameworks is not without its challenges. Resistance to change, budget constraints, and the complexity of redesigning existing systems are common hurdles. Solutions include securing leadership buy-in, prioritising initiatives based on their impact and feasibility, and fostering a culture that values diversity and inclusion.

The journey towards creating equitable and inclusive workplaces requires a deliberate and structured approach, one that is informed by the diverse needs and experiences of the workforce. By adopting practical frameworks for workplace design, primary resources can lead the way in fostering environments where all people have the opportunity to thrive.

These efforts not only contribute to a more equitable and inclusive workplace but also enhance operational efficiency, safety, and employee engagement. As the sectors continue to evolve, integrating these frameworks into the fabric of organisational design will be key to achieving long-term sustainability and success.