Three simple ways to make your meetings and social events inclusive for autistic team members

Meetings and social events can present unique challenges for your autistic team members. This includes virtual gatherings, like those important Zoom presentations or carefully planned team-building exercises. Whether your meetings are in-person or virtual, it is important to know how demanding these events can be for our autistic team members. Luckily, there are simple ways you can make your meetings and social events more inclusive for autistic colleagues. In this blog, we’ll share our top three tips.

1. Prioritize Clear Communication and Set Expectations

Whether your meeting or social gathering is in-person or virtual, providing clear communications about what is happening and expectations for the event will go a long way in helping autistic colleagues prepare and know what to expect. In advance of the meeting or event, provide straightforward information, including:

  • A clear agenda, including whether they will be asked to speak at the event or prepare information for the meeting.
    • An option to attend virtually with a virtual meeting link (Zoom, Google Meet, Teams, Slack, etc.).
    • Details about any additional activities about your event (guest speaker, Q&A session).

With clear details, your team can more easily navigate meeting and social situations and have a better experience overall.

2. Be Mindful of Sensory Considerations

A common thing we hear from our colleagues is the need for employers to understand the sensory environment better as autistic people often need more attention and support with sensory experiences. It’s a common misconception that sensory considerations only need to be taken for in-person events, but virtual events can also create sensory challenges. There are some simple steps/options employers and teams can take to help colleagues have a better sensory experience during meetings and events, whether in-person or virtual:

  • Avoid overwhelming visuals such as flashing GIFS in virtual meetings or flashing lights on site.
    • Minimize sound bursts, such as loud music and shouting/hollering sounds. Many virtual platforms have fun emojis that can be used to cheer or applaud.
    • Offer options like noise-cancelling features, captions, fidget tools, or calming visuals.
    • Allow setting customization like volume adjustments/screen brightness.
    • Provide designated break time (s), ensure they are noted clearly in the agenda and are on time.

Taking a moment to educate yourself, meeting organizers, and the team on how the sensory environment can affect colleagues and making small adjustments, can ensure your meetings and events are enjoyable and productive for all.

3. Offer Flexible Participation Options

Every autistic person, or anyone who is neurodivergent, will have varying comfort levels with social interaction at meetings and social events.  To make your event more inclusive and encourage participation, offer different options to contribute:

  • Chat-based interactions can be offered for virtual and in-person events for those who feel more comfortable with written communication.
  • Creating small break-out sessions to discuss topics may be less overwhelming and allow autistic colleagues to contribute to discussions more deeply.
  • For virtual events, always give the option to participate with video off. This allows your team members to focus on the discussion without distraction.

These simple tactics can be easily actioned and go a long way to creating successful, productive, and inclusive meetings and social events. We encourage you to seek feedback from your autistic and neurodivergent colleagues, whether through engaging with an employee resource group or through anonymous surveys.  Being open-minded to potentially doing things a little differently will help foster open communication, allowing your autistic colleagues to express their unique needs and preferences comfortably.

Are you interested in learning more about how to create a more inclusive workplace for autistic and neurodivergent colleagues and improve employee engagement? We can help! Contact ac.no1721823645citua1721823645@ofni1721823645, and one of our neuroinclusion experts will be happy to assist you.

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