Work from home and virtual workspaces are now common. Many small and large businesses and organizations have adopted remote work. Did you know that hosting sensory-friendly virtual meetings helps your remote workforce? Especially employees with sensory sensitivities. But hosting a sensory-friendly virtual meeting helps everyone on the team.
A sensory-friendly work environment is important to create online, just like you would in person. The following tips are simple to implement. They help make a productive, positive workspace for everyone on your team.
Provide information about the meetings in advance
A simple way to make your next virtual meeting more sensory-friendly is to provide basic information about the meeting in advance. By doing this, your team knows what to expect. This is particularly helpful to reduce people’s anxiety.
This includes letting people know:
- How long the meeting is expected to take.
- What virtual platform will you use to deliver the meeting.
- The topic of discussion.
- Who will be presenting and when.
- Everyone’s expected role in the meeting.
- What is in your slide deck. Share it in advance where possible.
- If you are going to be using additional technical features.
For instance, send out an email out with this information at least a day before the scheduled meeting. Give people time to review it.
Use a headset
Ever been in a virtual meeting with poor quality audio? Everyone is frustrated when you cannot properly hear who is speaking. This is especially true for any team member with sensory sensitivity. An easy way to ensure you have better quality sound during your meetings is to wear a headset. This simple solution helps make your virtual meeting sensory-friendly.
Audio and video on or off
Give your team the choice to have audio and video on or off. A common source of anxiety for your team is a requirement to have the video and audio on throughout a virtual meeting. Give your team a break. For example, choose a platform that allows for virtual backgrounds. Many people feel stressed about the idea of people looking at their personal space. Ultimately, this leads to people being distracted during the meeting.
Adjust your expectations accordioning. Make your virtual meetings sensory-friendly by giving your team options. Let your team turn off their cameras and mute themselves for portions of the meeting. It is challenging for the presenter to guage the response of a presentation without the visual feedback and non-verbal cues seen on video. Let participants take turns being on video.
Another way to create a sensory-friendly virtual meeting is to use closed-captions. While your audio learners like to hear information, your visual learners like to read it. Closed captions also help anyone on your team with even a little bit of hearing loss. And finally, closed captions help team members for whom the meeting is being held in a second language.
Additionally, many online meeting platforms have the option to turn on live and system-automated, closed-captions.
Create a sensory-friendly presentation
There are many ways that you can make a presentation in your meeting sensory-friendly. Find more in-depth examples of sensory-friendly presentation features.
For now, the most important feature to make a sensory-friendly presentation is to include slides or something to look at on screen other than faces. Slides help the visual learners on your team. Think about conveying information via words, number and pictures. Avoid too much text on one slide. Avoid too much information of any type on one slide. Follow the adage, “less is more.” Break up information into smaller chunks. Use bullet points. Avoid full sentences on a slide unless it is a quote.
Another effective way to make your presentation sensory-friendly is to include something your team has to do with their hands. A tactile activity. This can be something as simple as asking attendees to write down a list of words in response to a question. Another example is to ask your team to draw something. A tactile activity helps your team absorb the information and stay engaged.
Lastly, send meeting notes out at the end of the presentation. That gives your team the opportunity to review all the material and learn more from your presentation.
Include bio breaks
In online learning spaces, a lot of presenters forget to give breaks during their meetings for people to stretch, get water, eat or just step away from their screen momentarily. Always include breaks in presentations longer than 60 minutes.
During this break, you should encourage your attendees to stand up and stretch if needed. It is important to break up long periods of sitting. You could even consider running a quick moving exercise during your meeting. Have everyone do a seated yoga pose. Or stand and stretch together.
Additionally, let your team know they can take breaks to get a drink, use the bathroom, or the like. Your team may feel reluctant to leave a meeting if they are not told they can do so. Feeling hunger, thirst or having the urge to use the bathroom can lead to sensory overload. Create an expectation whereby they can send the team leader a direct message that they are taking a personal bio break.
Provide adequate time for questions
At the end of every meeting, be sure to include time for questions. Many times presenters include a short, 30-second pause asking for questions. And then move on too quickly. However, many adult learner take longer to process information and frame a response. Give a 5 minute, “thinking time” break before asking for questions to be shared.
In addition, ensure your team is given different ways to ask questions. For example, will you have a audio and video “on” section at the end for questions? Will you allow your team to raise their hands to ask questions throughout. Do you want them to use the chat feature to pose questions? Throughout the meeting? Or, just at the end? Are questions anonymous or will the person asking them be identified? Give options.
Offer a sensory-friendly virtual meeting for your work-from-home team to enjoy!
More sensory-friendly help at work
Employers, employees and business owners, check out other blog posts:
- Awesome trade show ideas: Virtual and in-person.
- Mental health at work.
- Productivity at work: Love your workspace .
- Sensory-friendly co-working space design in shared office.
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