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How to embrace religious diversity to enable a truly inclusive work culture

14 June 2023

Let’s encourage meaningful dialogues, inclusivity and empathy in our workspaces.

How to embrace religious diversity to enable a truly inclusive work culture
By celebrating diversity, employers can create a sense of belonging and unity among employees. Image credit: Shutterstock

Many think that faith or religion should be a taboo subject at work, not to be mentioned on the chance that it could cause offence or create unwanted debate.

But I’d like to encourage the exact opposite.

Educating ourselves and each other on our different beliefs, faiths or religions is essential in creating a more inclusive working environment for people of any faith.

And this religious diversity contributes to a more culturally rich workplace.

Workplaces need to be proactive

It’s important to recognise that people of different faiths have unique beliefs, practices, and traditions that can impact their work and personal lives.

Therefore, it’s crucial to implement strategies that promote respect, tolerance, and understanding towards different faiths in the workplace.

Implementing flexible arrangements that cater to diverse beliefs requires a proactive approach from companies.

Companies can create a workplace that supports the diverse beliefs and practices of their employees by:

  • assessing the needs of employees
  • developing flexible policies
  • communicating them clearly
  • training managers and supervisors
  • monitoring and evaluating the policies

This not only promotes a culture of respect and inclusion but also improves employee morale, productivity, and retention.

To do the above, here are five simple but effective steps to take.

1. Educate employees

One of the most important steps towards creating a more inclusive workplace is to raise awareness among employees about different faiths.

This can be done by hosting diversity and inclusion training sessions, or by bringing in guest speakers from different faith communities.

By providing employees with information on different faiths, they can better understand and appreciate the beliefs and practices of their colleagues.

2. Establish arrangements

Religious practices often require specific arrangements, such as time off for holidays or daily prayers.

Employers can create a more inclusive workplace by providing these arrangements and ensuring that employees are not penalised for practicing their faith.

Other arrangements could be access to prayer rooms or information on local faith communities

3. Develop flexible policies and avoid scheduling conflicts with religious holidays

Once the needs of employees are identified, companies can develop flexible policies that cater to diverse beliefs.

This can include flexible working hours or remote work arrangements.

Companies can also provide employees with paid time off for religious holidays or allow them to use personal days for religious observances.

Scheduling conflicts can be avoided by creating a calendar that lists all religious holidays and ensuring that work events and meetings don’t fall on these days.

By doing so, employees can feel supported and participate fully in their religious celebrations without worrying about work commitments.

4. Foster a culture of respect and tolerance

This can be done by promoting open communication and dialogue between employees. Encourage employees to share their beliefs and practices without fear of judgment or discrimination.

Employers can also establish policies that prohibit discrimination based on religion and ensure that all employees are treated with respect and dignity.

5. Celebrate diversity and inclusion

Employers can celebrate diversity and inclusion in the workplace by hosting events and activities that promote cultural awareness and appreciation.

This can include cultural food fairs, diversity and inclusion workshops, and celebrations of different religious holidays.

By celebrating diversity, employers can create a sense of belonging and unity among employees, regardless of their faith or cultural background.

I encourage everyone to be open and curious.

Ask your colleagues about their faith, read about the subject and really reflect on the similarities rather than the differences.

That’s what bring us together as humans.

Find out more about the ICE’s diversity and inclusion policy

Civil engineers work for the benefit and wellbeing of society – including both the environment and humankind.

As a membership organisation and an employer, the ICE values diversity and works to create a fairer environment free from harassment and discrimination, and one in which everybody feels included and valued.

Learn more
  • Naomi Miles, vice-president, human resources, Middle East and Africa at SNC-Lavalin