A quiet room is a self-care feature of events. It is a physical space, ideally an enclosed room, where conversation and interaction is not allowed. Participants can go there if for any reason they can't interact with other attendees at that time. Quiet rooms increase an event's welcome level especially to people who have anxiety related conditions, or who are easily exhausted by social interaction and/or presence of strangers. They are also useful for anyone who might need a break to recover from stress, overwhelming emotion, a headache, or dizziness.
Commodities should include:
- plentiful but not crammed seating
- furniture that allows semi-reclining and/or laying down, such as beanbags, a sofa, chaises longues, sleeping pads
- good ventilation
- appropriate temperature: warmth in winter and coolness in summer -- or at least, blankets or hand fans for comfort
- cushions, pillows, and blankets
- ample power points
- light reading material
- solo puzzles and similar toys
- dimmed illumination
- rubber doorstop to reduce door noise
Common activities in a quiet room include:
- catching up on email or surfing the net
- doodling, drawing
- listening to music
- playing games (solo)
- catching up on work.
For the benefit of quietness, it is best to let participants use headphones. Staff should be vigilant to scattered noise from earbuds or headphones that to not properly block the sound.
Typically the quiet room is interruptable, ie, people move in and out, and may go in there looking for someone. Separate lockable space may be needed for people who need a place where they will not be interrupted.
Establishing the quiet room
A quiet room does not necessarily require constantly supervision to enforce the rules. However it probably is easier to designate staff to supervise the room than to maintain readiness to act on complaints. The presence of a staff member will also reduce the risk of vandalism or theft, especially if the quiet room is equipped with things like borrowable earphones and books.
A supervisor does not need to be physically inside the quiet space at all times, especially if they would be left alone with a single participant, but should be right nearby for instant response when needed.
Rules for a quiet room should prioritize protecting its function. Only a bare minimum needs to be presented to participants on default. These are:
- No conversation.
- No phone calls.
- No activity that makes noise.
Further instructions for supervisors should lay out procedures and reminders to ensure the ideal functionality of the quiet room. Things to consider:
- Depending on area, fire safety legislature or insurance policies may require presence of a supervisor so that napping can be allowed.
- Be aware of when and how to send a person to the event nurse. Can the quiet room supervisor easily get a staff member to assist a participant on their way?
- Be ready to intervene at any noise. People find it hard to speak up to strangers; participants may well be socially anxious.
Placement and access
The placement of a quiet room can be a challenging task. Ideally it is located at a central, easily accessible spot, but is not affected by the bulk of noise from large halls or nearby "loud rooms". Consider setting up an alternative quiet space if a good location is not, for instance, accessible stairs-free.
Things to consider:
- easy, stair-free access is a priority
- access should not require passing through cramped, or very busy locations
- should be easy to find without assistance
- must not require staff intervention to reach (locked doors, staff-only areas).
Have a readily visible mark on the venue map, and consider putting up extra venue maps and "this way" signs.