The Future of Work: Why an accessible workplace is good for business

Credit: Gabi and Jules/Facebook

This B.C. business shows how inclusivity benefits employers and employees alike

Boring, sweaty, repetitive, thankless work—that’s dishwashing in a bakery. Turnover tends to be high. But not at Gabi & Jules Handmade Pies and Baked Goodness in Port Moody. “One of our dishwashers shows up an hour and a half early, every day,” says owner Lisa Beecroft.

Beecroft’s daughter is on the autism spectrum. When she opened the bakery in 2016, she made it part of the mission to provide opportunities to autistic people. Ten of her 30 staff are autistic, including the three dishwashers.

“When you have an accessible workplace, you quickly realize everyone brings unique abilities,” Beecroft says. “Autistic people thrive on doing the same thing, every time. And they’re loyal, which, as any small business owner in B.C. will tell you, is hard to find.”

The value of an accessible and inclusive business is well established. When Deloitte polled Canadian firms for its report Outcomes Over Optics: Building Inclusive Organizations, it found that inclusive firms were more likely to grow revenue, spend on research and development, and have confident outlooks. Being inclusive also opens up new demographics. About 62 percent of the population works, but less than 50 percent of disabled people do. That’s an opportunity as recruiting staff gets tougher.

Businesses must create a welcoming environment for minorities, immigrants, people with disabilities and those identifying as LGBT. Inclusivity extends from job posting through employee experience, from workplace infrastructure to company events.

The impact at Gabi & Jules reaches far beyond giving marginalized employees an opportunity. “The inclusive environment is part of why the other staff work here, too,” Beecroft explains. “It’s inspiring to see people succeed, and they want to be a part of that. They tend to be a little more compassionate and aware of the world beyond themselves.”

How can you replicate Gabi & Jules’s success? We asked Marco Pasqua, an accessibility consultant representing the Presidents Group, a network of B.C. employers championing more accessible and inclusive workplaces; and Arun Subramanian, director of industry HR development with Vancouver-based go2HR, which specializes in tourism staffing.


Inclusivity only works if everyone from the boss to the newest employee is on board. The first step is an open dialogue with staff. Encourage questions, accept concerns, and be proactive. It helps to address biases and misconceptions and foster an inclusive environment, a proven way of boosting productivity for all staff.


One of the most common concerns is offending a minority inadvertently, which can paralyze communication. Address these worries by talking about the appropriate language to use. The best approach: be polite, and just ask.


Inform everyone about your inclusive hiring practices. Include a statement on your website and in job descriptions, tell your staff, and commit to it on social media.


Speaking of job descriptions, take a critical look at them, scrutinizing what skills are really required and which ones are just nice to have. Be clear about both. Take the same flexible attitude to applications and interviews by providing them in as many forms as possible.


Many organizations work to increase inclusivity. The Presidents Group and Work BC are good places to start. Other agencies work to prepare, place and train disadvantaged groups; for instance, Pacific Autism Family Network helps integrate autistic people into jobs. The best services continue supporting businesses and employees over the long term, not just during job training.


Vancouver-based Mustel Group, led by owner Evi Mustel, conducts market research for clients that include Telus Corp., the City of Vancouver and London Drugs, and is a regular contributor to BCBusiness. In March, Mustel interviewed 501 Metro Vancouver residents on topics related to the future of work, narrowing this group down to the 274 employed respondents for certain questions. Some results do not total 100 percent due to rounding.