Setting up sites for inclusion
There is a growing demand for workplace environments across the construction industry to become more inclusive to attract and retain a more diverse workforce.
The installation of multi-faith washing facilities has provided a space for employees to practice their religion, creating a more inclusive and welcoming site environment.
This paper contains detailed information about installing these facilities, as well as implementing other inclusive initiatives, and the benefits gained.
Background and industry context
Ethnically diverse companies perform better by 36%. Prospective staff and employees are now more inclined to look at how companies provide for their staff, and how they will be catered for in terms of the physical environment (e.g. access to facilities) and non-physical environment (e.g. recognising religious holidays).
Costain Skanska joint venture (CSjv) is delivering the Enabling Works Contract (EWC) on the southern section of High Speed Two (HS2) phase one which includes demolition of buildings within the wider Euston area, utility diversions, environmental and ecological monitoring and a programme of historic environment and archaeological activities.
Both HS2 and CSjv are committed to improving the diversity of the construction workforce. Of equal importance is to create an inclusive working environment to enable all staff to thrive. It is believed that an inclusive environment will, in turn, attract and retain a diverse workforce to benefit the industry.
An inclusive environment is both physical and cultural. Physically, it means that facilities can cater for the needs of teams and enable them to do their job. For the duration of the works, CSjv has placed equal importance on diversity as well as inclusion.
CSjv’s approach to creating an inclusive workplace can be illustrated by the multi-faith facilities provided for its employees. These multi-faith facilities include dedicated washing facilities, quiet prayer spaces and storage for shoes and prayer mats.
Within the Euston Approaches area of HS2, there were 22 people who would use multi-faith facilities as part of their daily life. Without such facilities, alternative non-specific locations such as meeting rooms and stairwells would be used for prayer space, and water bottles and sinks used for ritual ablutions.
Muslim employees make up 5% of the CSjv workforce. Before prayer, Muslims are required to perform Wudhu, a ritual of cleaning hands, mouth, nostrils, face, arms and feet with clean water. At CSjv’s Addison Lee compound, specific facilities have been installed for this, made from up-cycled hoarding. A sub-contractor to CSjv, Multitech, provided a Wudhu Wash to create a multi-faith washing area.
This sub-contractor also supplied and installed multi-faith toilet washing facilities for existing toilets on site. With limited space available, this was a suitable retrofit for existing facilities to ensure the cubicles were user-friendly for all members of staff.
The total cost for the supply and installation of these items was £2100. This investment was repaid quickly by saving on cleaning costs for improper use of facilities.
- Creating a checklist for offices, based on gender, religion, access and disability requirements, which is shared here as a supporting document. The British Standard (BS) 8300 was used as a basis for access requirements. The specific drawings – covering everything from microwave placement in kitchens to desk arrangements – were exceptionally informative for design teams and installers. (Learning Legacy paper: Becoming a Disability Confident Employer)
- Committing to not opening sites until sanitary bins and a disposal procedure are in place. This is often left until after the site is open, which causes inconvenience.
- 60 members of the Traffic Management (TM) Team completed inclusive design training from Guide Dogs UK and Freeney Williams to inform the creation of pedestrian diversions and ensure accessibility for vulnerable users. The learnings from this were used to update TM strategy, for example on the placement of pedestrian walkways and cones.
Outcomes and learning
The multi-faith washing area and toilets are one example of how CSjv has created an inclusive environment for a diverse workforce. This environment has led the team to develop in a more inclusive way, making staff feel more accepted and integrated within their teams. On a wider note, this has been adapted on other office set-ups, within both CSjv and the HS2 Main Works Civils Contracts, as standard.
This mentality fostered a workplace culture where people were encouraged to talk, share and learn about the diverse nature of their teams. In this case, it opened people’s eyes to the fact that empty water bottles were not a sign of untidiness, but a result of attempting to clean without the proper facilities.
Proper signage describing how to use the facilities allowed those unfamiliar with them to gain a better understanding. The choice of flooring installed within the welfare was very important to prevent slip hazards from water spilt on the floor.
“Working in an environment where you don’t need to hide your beliefs created a safe space where I could concentrate on the role I was there to do.” Taj Daroge – Engineer, CSjv
Whilst female changing areas, ramps for access and sometimes lifts are becoming more standard in site cabins, there is still room for improvement in workplaces created to encompass safety, wellbeing and inclusion for all members of the workforce. CSjv is committed to progressing this journey as works continue.
“This inclusive design training will help us ensure that we can achieve great results, and that we’re constantly adapting and leading the way in a safety-critical, technical and often complex array of traffic management disciplines.“ Rob Marchand – Head of Traffic Management, CSjv
With a number of sites being created, it can be difficult to justify installing these facilities. It is imperative to consult with the workforce about what inclusive design facilities will suit their needs, and to ensure that the facilities are appropriate. This will make the workforce feel more engaged.
These spaces will require a privacy within the welfare. Early engagement and including representatives from the workforce in the development of these solutions will ensure they are fit for purpose.
Engaging the workforce to ensure that facilities are appropriate and fit for purpose creates a more inclusive work environment.
Thank you to our site engineer Taj Daroge for coming up with the idea. Thanks to the team at Addison Lee site for putting this in place. Many thanks to Ricky Prett and Thomas Cleary for providing the support to make this innovation a success.
 McKinsey. Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters [internet]. 2020 [cited 2021 Sept 20].
 BS 8300-1:2018 Design of an accessible and inclusive built environment. External environment – code of practice. British Standards Institution, London, 2018.