I wasn't familiar with access needs until I joined the board of the nonprofit LGBT Youth Line, which provides peer-to-peer support for youth in Ontario. At the start of a meeting, we'd share our access needs, which basically are the things you as a person need to communicate and participate in the conversation.

For example, someone may need to doodle while on a call to help concentrate. The beauty of this simple question is that it prevents crossed wires: "Oh, you're not doodling because you're uninterested in what I have to say; instead, that's what you need to participate so you can hear me."

I'll admit it felt a bit silly in the beginning but when I saw how it front-ended miscommunication I began to wonder why more meetings didn't start like this. Communicating our needs shouldn't be a bad thing, and in fact it can build rapport between coworkers.

Imagine someone telling you: "I didn't get much sleep last night because I felt anxious, so my attention is a bit shot. I may ask you to repeat what you said to make sure I clearly understand you." It brings a humanity to meetings that we often neglect, and during these times it allows us to remember that we're all going through a lot at once.