for better mental health

Running an activity

If you are running Influence and Participation activities remotely on there are things you will need to consider

Facilitating

  • Schedule time for facilitators to meet 15-20 minutes before the meeting if needed. You may want to go over your plan, check attendance, check content and software is working.
  • Facilitators should be aware of the effect technology can have on the meeting:
    • You need to be prepared to cover less than you would in a face to face scenario, for instance logging in and internet crashing can take up time. These issues can also create a lot of anxiety which you might need to work through with your group.
    • Schedule your meeting to start at least 15 minutes before the first item on the agenda to allow time for people to log on and manage any technical challenges.
    • If you are using a platform you are unfamiliar with, doing a practice run with colleagues is a good idea.
    • Consider a technical host, a screen host and breakout room hosts if needed. We develop skills in these areas through experience or acquire them through training. We can also learn a lot from the experience of colleagues.
  • If your meeting is discussing personal information or a confidential piece of work use a password to login and admit people when they enter the platform.
  • Offer participants a named contact to get in touch with if they have any issues in advance of the meeting, and to debrief with after the event has taken place. These roles can be split, but it’s important to consider who participants will contact and how.
  • Look after your own wellbeing - spread out meetings and activities rather than holding them all on the same day. Give yourself a break from the screen, drink plenty of water, take a walk or go outside if you are able to.
  • Keep it simple - Remote working places restrictions on the kinds of conversation that are effective in helping you to achieve your aim. We need to avoid online meetings drifting away from the subject at hand, and our best hope of achieving this lies in people understanding what we are here for and what is expected of us. One way of achieving this would be a clear agenda with clear objectives.
  • Openness and transparency - Acknowledge the difficulties that might arise with online or remote working, in terms of accessibility and inclusion. Don’t pretend to possess expertise that you don’t – new ways of working can present difficulties for everyone involved, regardless of their formal role. It’s good if people enter into a project with an understanding that technical issues are likely to arise and to develop group solutions to these problems.

Thinking about your participants

  • Is there a particular time of the day that works better for individuals?
    • Some disabilities or long-term health conditions might require rest breaks at particular points in the day; some people might find that their concentration levels deteriorate as the day progresses. For example, some autistic people may also have a strict routine influencing what time of day they are able to participate in meetings or social settings.
    • Parental and caring responsibilities – these might influence the time of day or particular days of the week that will be better for most people.
    • Faith - consider any religious or faith based observances that people need to keep.
  • Actively encourage wellbeing.
    • Let people know that it’s ok for them to take breaks, or turn off their screen, from time to time as and when they need to. Acknowledge it can be exhausting being on video calls and looking at screens for extended periods!
    • Encourage participants to set up a good working environment in their home (finding a quiet space free from interruption, muting phone or email notifications, having a drink to hand etc.)
    • Include breaks in the agenda.
  • Length of meeting - Half day or full day workshops don’t work well online. Ideally, online meetings should last no longer than 90 minutes. Online activities usually prove to be very tiring, particularly so for people with certain disabilities. It’s important to take care when planning agendas and to stick to them when you’re working. Building in adequate breaks is even more important than when holding events where people meet in person.
  • Number of participants.
    • Ideally, no more than 12 people should be involved in an Influence and Participation online meeting. If you need to involve more participants, think about splitting into breakout ‘rooms’ for discussion or running the same session more than once.
    • It is often difficult to get everyone available at the same time, but you could offer an alternative method such as a call or survey to people who are unable to attend so they can then feed in and be updated.

Before the meeting 

  • Consider asking people to introduce themselves to each other beforehand.
  • Is there anything you can send to people in advance? This includes documents to read, video introductions/scene setting, or if parts of what you want to do could be done by email?
  • Ask the people you are working with if they have any adjustments that need to be made, or other needs that need to be addressed so that people are able to participate to the best of their ability.
  • Provide instructions on downloading software and setting up accounts in advance – let people know when usernames will be visible to others.

During the meeting 

  • Make sure that everyone knows who is in the room; ensure that you introduce people with names, pronouns and do a check in with participants. It’s worth considering ways you can do the check in without it taking up too much of the meeting.
  • Consider how you will ensure that everyone can stay involved and contribute throughout.
  • Ensure you have a nominated note taker when required. Some platforms allow a transcript to be downloaded from the meeting, but participants will need to agree to this prior to the meeting.

Ways of working online

Privacy

It's important to address privacy. People on the call need to feel confident that there aren't other people able to hear them (for some activities at least), or to know if there is anyone in or passing through a participant's room.


Working together

The importance of active chairing and moderation in an online setting cannot be overemphasised. If you are working with an existing group, remind people of any previous group agreements and update them if necessary.

If you are working with a new group then deciding on a group agreement will be useful. The following suggestions take account of the online format:

  • Be kind to each other and yourself. You might be rushing through a process that would normally take more time and this will impact on the way that you work.
  • Be an active participant and support others to actively participate as well.
  • Prioritise your own wellbeing; leave if you need to and join when you can.
  • Close down distractions such as emails and mute team notifications for staff participants if possible.


Interacting

Each platform has different options you can use to interact with each other. It’s important to consider how you will or won’t utilise these features to allow the meeting to run more smoothly and also give more options of how people can interact and influence decisions. Below is a short list of some to consider but these are by no means comprehensive:

  • Be clear about how people indicate they want to say something e.g. raising hand electronically, putting name in the chat.
  • Think about using mute when others are speaking for clearer audio.
  • Think about turning videos off when people's speech or video is distorted.
  • Use polls, whiteboards and breakout rooms to enable different ways to in which people can discuss, decide and collate views together.

How - Methods

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