Universal design at P&G shapes future for more-inclusive offices

In the United States, as many as one in five adults are living with some form of disability, whether it be physical or cognitive, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s 53 million Americans who are affected by design choices in the workplace.

So how are employers working to shape a more-inclusive workspace?

Companies like P&G are the template. The consumer goods giant is creating environments that work for employees of all abilities through a principle called universal design. In 2016, P&G began an initiative to make sure its physical offices had the potential to be as inclusive as its company culture.

“The goal of our universal design program is to create inclusive, innovative and purposeful places to work that improve everyday life for all of our employees,” said Gregory Patterson, P&G Global Facilities Universal Design Leader. “This will not only be reflected in all of our design projects moving forward, but embedded in our culture as a company.”

With JLL’s help, P&G surveyed some of their largest workplaces around the globe and identified 18 initial locations that will undergo big and small projects to incorporate a more-inclusive design.

“These projects could be anything from integrating ramps and stairways in a way that creates a single entrance, to providing color contrasting finishes in main corridors,” said Nicole Schneider, JLL Global Workplace Lead for P&G. “It’s about more than just physical changes, though. We’re also training and educating operations and services teams on making all employees and guests feel welcome.”

The approach to universal design goes further than the requirements and design regulations laid out by the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. Universal design is about providing inclusive solutions that can be understood and used by as many people as possible.

Where the ADA might require a separate entry ramp to a building for people who use wheelchairs, universal design finds a way to integrate stairs and ramps so everyone can enter the building through the same doors.

“Universal design may prevent the need for retrofitting and ensures all employees—from those with disabilities, as well as the growing population aging into impairments, to those with no disabilities at all—can fully leverage all areas of a workplace, use the equipment and function at their best,” said Kim Vanderland, Senior Vice President, JLL Strategic Consulting. “It’s all about respect and making people feel comfortable where they work. That’s what P&G has accomplished with their program.”

Learn how JLL is breaking down barriers and promoting inclusion for all abilities in our own workplaces by visiting JLL.com.