Walk and Talk Your Way to Success: The Why’s and How’s of Walking Meetings

How many times have you or your employees dreaded having to go to a meeting? Have you ever not looked forward to sitting at the same conference table or sitting in the same office you have for hundreds of other meetings?

This could become a problem of the past with one of the growing trends in business: walking meetings. This type of meeting is exactly as it sounds. Instead of having a meeting in the usual office setting, the meeting takes place while walking.

Other than a change in location there are many other benefits to getting out of the office and taking a walk.

The Why’s

Improve employee health

By some estimates the average American worker sits for about 9 hours a day. This about 6 hours longer than we should be sitting. Some research has shown that people who sit for more than 6 hours a day are 40 percent more likely to die within the next 15 years than people who sit for less than 3 hours a day.

Walking meetings can keep employees active and help them get some much needed fresh air and sunlight. Walking for just 30 minutes a day can reduce the risk of dementia, certain types of cancers, and heart disease.

Healthier employees are happier employees.

Increase creativity

Research into walking meets shows that they increase creative thinking, up to 60% by some estimates. (Economy, 2015) Creative thinking usually results in more productive meetings. A change in setting can provide inspiration, more flexible thinking, or better problem solving abilities. (Bowles)

In a recent survey of 150 employed adults in the U.S., Clayton, Thomas, & Smothers (2015) found that workers who participate in walking meetings are 5.25% more likely to feel more creative. While 5.25% may not seem like a lot, if the costs of walking meetings are considered, then walking meetings are basically no cost ways to provide increases in creativity.

Break down barriers

Many times walking meetings can change the dynamics of a group, especially the power dynamic between a manager and employees. Without the hierarchy of more traditional meetings, employees and employers can engage on a different level. This may make the meeting more relaxed and more likely to produce better results in less amount of time.

Energize and engage employees

According to one study done by researchers at Johnson & Johnson, after 90 walking meetings employees felt more energized, more focused on their jobs, and more engaged with colleagues and the company.

In the same study by Clayton, Thomas, & Smothers (2015) they found that workers that participate in walking meetings are 8.5% more likely to feel highly engaged.

Encourage communication

Walking meetings have been shown to help people “unplug” from devices that distract their attention. This, in addition to the ability of walking to wake up the brain, enables people to be more honest and open in communication with others.

The How’s

Have a purpose and structure

Because this may be a different style of meeting for employees and managers try to stress that there is still work to be done. The meeting should have an agenda, a purpose, a conclusion, and all the other elements of a regular meeting.

Know your meeting

When planning, make sure the type of meeting is appropriate for walking. Some meetings, like those where supplies are needed or negotiations are taking place, may not be the most appropriate. Brainstorming and decision-making meetings are often the best candidates for walking meetings.

Keep the size in mind

It is important to think about the size of the meeting when planning a walking meeting. These types of meetings are better for one-on-one meetings or meetings of less than 4 people. For larger meetings, standing could be another way of boosting productivity.

Prepare and plan according to the group

The abilities and the needs of the group need to be taken into consideration when planning a walking meeting:

  • Ask participants first if they are willing to have a walking meeting.
  • The speed of the walk should be okay for everyone and should follow the pace of the slowest person.
  • Everyone should be reminded to wear clothing that they feel comfortable walking in.
  • Also, make sure the route of the walk is safe and allows all members of the group to make it to the destination and back in the time allotted for the meeting.

Define the destination

When choosing a destination think of a place that employees will enjoy going to and one that will motivate them: a park, an interesting historical or cultural attraction, a monument or sculpture. Try to avoid going to a place where employees will spend money on unnecessary calories or products.

Assign roles

Walking meetings may need a bit more organization since there are more factors involved by being outside. Researchers at the University of California – Riverside found that this can be done by assigning roles to different members of the group.

The Leader – Helps to keep the group focused on the agenda and facilitates the process.

The Guide – Knows the route and gives the group directions along the way, lets people know about possible safety concerns, and provides other routes if necessary.

The Scribe – Takes notes and suggests breaks when important things need to be written down.

Have fun

Maybe this goes without saying, but make sure to still have fun while outside for the walk. Doing work while outside can be a very enjoyable experience. Don’t take it so seriously that employees aren’t willing to try it again.

With a little planning and at basically no additional cost a walking meeting can produce significant gains in many aspects of an organization. Happier employees and happier employers make for a more productive organization. Why not try out a walking meeting to walk and talk your way to success.

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