Why Atlassian is turning its Sydney headquarters into a giant rainbow

Startup giant Atlassian will light up its Sydney headquarters in a rainbow-coloured show of support for marriage equality, as part of the tech unicorn’s ongoing efforts to promote a culture of inclusiveness and diversity in its team of more than 2,000 global employees.

From Thursday, October 12, the software startup’s Sydney HQ will wear rainbow colours to project their support of marriage equality into the streets of Sydney. Atlassian will continue to project this colourful display between the hours of  7pm and midnight for the next week as a show of solidarity for its LGBTQI+ staff who are affected by the same-sex marriage debate currently raging in Australia.

This display is the latest in Atlassian’s history of vocal support of marriage equality in Australia, after the company signed the Australian marriage equality corporate support campaign, and joined companies like Twitter, Facebook and Google to form the InterTech Australia LGBTQI+ network, which was launched at Atlassian’s Sydney office last month.

Homophobia affects not only an employee’s mental health but also the culture and sense of inclusiveness in a workplace, and has been shown to be costly to both workers and employers. This is why Atlassian has taken a strong stance in support of marriage equality, mental health and LGBTQI+ rights, even establishing an “Outlassians” employee group for LGBTQI+ employees.

We are a company that’s really aligned with our values, and one of our values is play as a team,” Atlassian’s global head of diversity and inclusion Aubrey Blanche tells StartupSmart. 

“Part of our team is our LGBTI colleagues — the Outlassians — and we know that at this time they are struggling a lot,” she says.

It’s very difficult to have one of the most significant relationships of your life put up for public debate, and this is a chance for us to stand up and speak out for our Outlassians and make them feel like the belong when they walk through our doors.” 

Sydneysiders… look up on your way home tonight ❤️????️‍???? Super proud of the entire team getting behind this. #loveislove #lightupthecity https://t.co/Lz9IRR7oxe

— Mike Cannon-Brookes (@mcannonbrookes) October 12, 2017

How startups can embrace inclusiveness, awareness and diversity

Providing support for LGBTQI+ employees goes hand-in-hand with encouraging diversity and mental health initiatives, and Blanche says the best way for startups to ensure their staff are happy and healthy is to foster a culture of respect and openness about these issues.

“When it comes to mental health, which often overlaps with these other categories of diversity, the most important thing you can do outside of providing counselling services is to create a culture where asking for help is respected and encouraged,” she says. 

“Allowing that dialogue to happen and allowing people to raise their hand can create a world of difference in that realm.” 

For startups looking to take actionable steps to improve their company culture, Blanche says having leave policies in place for mental health days can make a huge difference to the health and satisfaction of employees.

I think one of the things you can do as a startup even if you’re just two people is to have a really thoughtful and documented leave policy. This is great for supporting mental health and other types of diversity, for example, having a great maternity leave policy,” she says. 

Blanche also advises startups to look beyond traditionally-recognised forms of mental illness and acknowledge that feelings of burnout or stress can be as valid a reason to take leave as physical sickness.

“We think of mental health sometimes as a condition that’s diagnosed, but it [taking leave] can also be really great for burnout. That’s a great step anyone can do today to improve their culture and help folks be well at work,” she says.  

“It’s much easier to turn a sailboat than turn the Titanic”

Staff who feel supported and encouraged by their organisation are more innovative, productive, and will stay with the company for longer, Blanche says, adding that “investing in a diverse culture is a great value-add” for any startup.

“As the world is changing and becoming more diverse it is actually becoming a competitive advantage [to attract employees],” Blanche says.

“Investing in this [diversity] is a great business idea in addition to [being] the right thing to do.”

If you’re a startup founder looking to build a company with a strong foundation in diversity and inclusion, Blanche says the best time to start is now, rather than a few years down the track.

“Startups have this incredible potential: by thinking about these issues early you actually get ahead of them and set the culture of the company,” she says. 

“It’s much easier to turn a sailboat than turn the Titanic.”

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