The Great Outdoors - Walking Meetings

Until recently one of the main features of meetings was meeting. But, since covid, with the growth of zoom, teams and skype, meeting people in real life's become something of a novelty. And as workplaces get rejigged to adapt to hybrid working; with hot desking and cubicles; traditional office/meeting space is at a premium.

 

One alternative to meeting in an office, or staring at a screen, is a walking meeting. They're cheap, you don't have to log on, or book a pod or a hub, and you get outside. They're also good for health, engagement and creativity. Research suggests that how and where you walk can increase the benefits. Here's why:

Using walking as a tool, rather than just for getting from A to B, is nothing new. The Latin phrase “Solvitur Ambulando”, is credited to St Augustine in the fifth century and means, ‘it is solved by walking.’ More recently the 19th century philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, wrote, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”

Augustine and Fred weren't just watching their waistlines. Although walking does burn calories  (30 mins walking: 150 cals, 30 mins sitting: 30 cals), it also fuels brainpower. In a 2014 experiment at Stanford University (Give Your Ideas Some Legs) researchers found that moving was better than sitting for creative thinking. Getting up and active, by their reckoning, gives a 60% uplift in creativity.

Having a destination in mind is a good idea and how you get there also helps.

This study from the National Taiwan University found that being able to wander, rather than having a prescribed route, allows the brain to do the same. They call it ‘free walking’ and it can lead to new ideas, known as divergent thinking.

So walking can be good for meetings where you're open to ideas. However, it’s less useful for meetings where a consensus is required (convergent thinking), like board meetings, AGM’s etc. If you’ve got a decision to make, with a big group, it might be better to sit around a table in the office or board room.

The writer and academic Robert MacFarlane likes to structure meetings with his students around distance rather than time. So instead of an hour long one-to-one it might be a two miler.  For those of us that aren't students or award-winning writers it might be helpful to combine distance and time into your agenda. So it could be an hour meeting, roughly 2 miles, (or 4000 steps for the fitbitters). 

In this article from The Harvard Business Review, How to do Walking Meetings Right), it mentions that people who did meetings on foot were “8.5% more likely to report high levels of engagement”, meaning more focus on the job.  

Where you walk could make your meeting even better. Green space (parks etc) and blue space (water) have been shown to have their own health benefits, not least fresher air. Just finding a route that includes some greenery can be good. And early stage research shows that being by water can have positive effects on mental health and boost physical activity.

Here's some pointers from the research and articles cited above:

  • Give notice of the meeting, and let people know it involves walking.

  • Have an agenda. Share it. 

  • Keep the number of participants small. Between 2 and 5 seems to be the suggested size. Break bigger groups into smaller ones. 

  • Use walking for conversation and ideas rather than hard-nosed negotiation, or box-ticking. 

  • Have a destination in mind but be open-minded about the route.

  • Build in a point(s) of interest. 

We provide training for, and can facilitate your walking meetings. Get in touch on 07947 653 700.