Creating a Welcoming Office Culture for Nonbinary Employees

Your business should be welcoming and safe for your entire workforce, and that means it’s worth taking a fresh look at whether your office culture is a good place for nonbinary employees.

Being more inclusive of nonbinary employees might involve making a number of changes, including adjustments to your employee manual, your dress code and even your bathroom facilities. Here’s a look at what your business can do to be more welcoming and inclusive of those who go beyond the gender binary.

Take Care With Pronouns

Someone who’s nonbinary doesn’t fit the “male” or “female” category and doesn’t identify exclusively with either gender. They may prefer the pronouns they, he or she, or a different pronoun such as ve, xe or ze. It’s OK for an employee to respectfully ask about someone’s preferred pronoun and name or, if they mistakenly refer to them by the wrong pronoun, to apologize. You may need to update your employee handbook to state that employees should address each other by their preferred pronouns and names.

Within the handbook itself, adapt the language to be more inclusive as well. Avoid using “he” for all employees, for example. Say “their job responsibilities” rather than “his or her job responsibilities.” In meetings and workshops, keep in mind that addressing groups with “ladies and gentlemen” may not include your entire staff, while “hello, everyone” always will.

Review Company Documents and Benefits

Beyond the employee manual, review other company documents and forms to make sure they use inclusive language. Do HR documents only offer a male or female box when asking about gender? Leave space for employees to list their preferred pronoun on documentation. Instead of just Mr., Miss and Mrs., offer Mx. and n/a as options, and always include blank spaces for employees to offer options you might not have considered.

You will also want to look for nonbinary-inclusive health care benefits that don’t focus solely on male and female employees. Try to find offerings that reflect difficulties nonbinary employees are more likely to have, such as telemedicine to make it easier to access appropriate and understanding care providers.

Revise the Dress Code

Dress codes can be a big source of nonbinary exclusion, and a revised dress code is a good place to start to create a more welcoming culture. Aim to make your dress code gender neutral. Employees should feel welcome to wear feminine or masculine work clothes. If you have clothing restrictions, apply them uniformly — if women are allowed to wear lipstick and earrings, for example, then other employees should be allowed to do the same.

Develop a Grievance Process

Regardless of the makeup of your workforce, your office should have a grievance process in place to protect staff against harassment and mistreatment. Nonbinary employees, as well as the rest of employees, will feel safer knowing that your or HR’s doors are always open to hear their concerns — and that they won’t face any backlash for using that policy. Stipulate this clearly in the employee handbook, noting that the company doesn’t tolerate harassment or discrimination.

Make Sure Facilities Are Inclusive

Gendered restrooms force nonbinary employees to make an uncomfortable choice between two options — neither of which fits them — as well as creating opportunities for harassment. Consider designating gender-neutral or single-stall restrooms, and encourage employees to use the restrooms where they feel most comfortable and safest. Apply the same policies for spaces like locker rooms.

Host an Inclusivity Workshop

Hosting a workshop or training session on inclusivity can also be helpful. These workshops should cover the proper etiquette for using pronouns along with other ways to be more inclusive toward fellow colleagues. Many organizations are happy to help host an inclusivity training meeting. For example, Everyday Feminism offers nonbinary inclusivity training. Out and Equal provides a free inclusion guide that can also help.

Although it might take a little effort, changing the office culture to be more inclusive for nonbinary employees is a worthwhile way to make sure you welcome the widest possible range of talent to help your business flourish. Employees are more productive and loyal when they know their company cares enough to make changes to support their success at work — including their well-being and safety.

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