How can we together build an inclusive workplace?

Have you ever been frustrated in a meeting where you are not asked for your opinion or are talked over? Or where you are asserting your opinion only to be labelled aggressive? How about pressure to be a super human instead of talking about how you actually feel? Or pressure to fit in? Hopefully you can answer no to all these questions, but it happens quite often that people feel excluded in one way or another in the workplace, which can be quite gruelling.

In fact, one of the biggest fears for human beings has always been to get excluded. It has been so for thousands of years, and so it is now. In the old days exclusion meant that you could not participate in hunting and sharing of wild game, which was a question of survival. Today, exclusion takes the face of discrimination, harassment and bullying that are serious threats to a healthy and productive workplace.

This is the reason why inclusion is one of the cornerstones of health and wellbeing at Stora Enso. Inclusion means that all of us feel we are treated fairly and with respect, we can be ourselves and are able to contribute with our views, that we are listened to and valued and that we feel empowered to grow and do our best work. In short, we should all feel that we belong. Feeling valued, secure, supported and respected is typically associated with lower stress levels and consequently improving physical health, emotional wellbeing, and performance. Further, in a working environment with a high level of inclusion it is less likely to occur negative events like discrimination, harassment and bullying.

There are also other positive aspects of inclusion, which go hand in hand with diversity. As stated in our Stora Enso Code and Diversity Policy, we believe diversity strengthens our competitiveness and strive to reflect the societies where we operate. However, diverse working teams are not enough – it is inclusion that helps us leverage from such diversity. Research shows that if all members of a team feel equally valued and respected and their differences are respected, they feel safe to share their thoughts, ideas, experiences and different perspectives – leading to an increase in team performance, collaboration and decision making quality.   

So, how can we work together to build an inclusive workplace?

Inclusion is to some extent a leadership question. As a leader in Stora Enso you have a responsibility to listen, respect and make everyone feel that they belong to the team. This is not only an obligation but also a great opportunity for you as a leader to develop your team and make it more productive. However, each of us —no matter what our level, role or function is— can play an active role in creating a working environment where people of diverse backgrounds can fully be themselves at work and do their best. And it is not complicated. Inclusion can start with a smile, valuing each other and being willing to understand others and being unprejudiced.

Speaking up is also a crucial factor. If you see excluding behaviour, it is your right and obligation to speak up. For example, if your colleague is not listened to in a meeting, you can say ‘I would like to hear my colleague’s view’. In addition to speaking up, it is also vital that we listen. For example, if a colleague is nervous when giving a presentation, do not look away or check your emails but instead encourage him/her with a smile or a nod. You can also respond positively to novel ideas, empower your colleagues to make decisions and share credit for team success. Use your voice and behaviour to create an inclusive working environment. Remember that everyone’s opinion matters.

So let’s encourage ourselves and our colleagues to bring our unique selves to work every day and bring out the best in each other. For inspiration, please have a look at this short video: Inclusion starts with I.  

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