By: Alice Berg
Walking is good for your health. However, working for long hours and having a tight schedule can leave you with little to no time to enjoy the benefits of going for a walk.
Research has found that workers who remain inactive for over 13 hours are twice as much at risk of dying prematurely as those who were sedentary for 11.5 hours. According to the study, sitting in your office for extended periods will have similar effects as smoking.
Doing walking meetings is a great way to get work done as well as exercise and get some fresh air. A walking meeting is a meeting held when taking a walk – away from boardrooms, offices, or coffee shops. Studies have shown that walking actually boosts creative output by about 60%.
So, how do you implement the idea in your workplace? Here are seven practical ways to organize and hold a successful walking meeting.
1: Give Prior Notice of the Walking Meeting to the Attendees
In as much as you have the brilliant idea of holding meetings while walking, you cannot surprise your clients or colleagues with the meeting. It is okay to suggest taking a walk spontaneously if the moment feels right and as long as you indicate that a “no” or “maybe next time” response is fine.
However, if you are planning for such a meeting, it is always courteous to inform everyone who will be attending well in advance. When attendees know that you will be taking a walk during the meeting early, they can plan to dress comfortably for it (appropriate clothes and shoes for walking) and carry anything that they may need (perhaps water). The meeting might turn out to be uncomfortable for other people, and they may not be as productive as expected if they are not dressed well for the situation.
2: Stick to One-On-One Meetings or a Small Group
While it is still possible to do walks in large teams, you will need to incorporate some sitting from time to time to get everyone’s attention or at least divide people into smaller teams to conduct discussions. That said, small groups are best suited for this kind of meetings. If you are planning to have a meeting with one or a few people, walking will work great.
Keep the number of people in the meeting to four to get the most of it. You can also opt to pair up attendees to make the discussion more productive and encourage everyone to participate. You can each pair with a particular question or topic and ask them to report back on their ideas when everyone is together.
In October 2020, Pact launched AfrIdea, a regional innovation program supported by the U.S. Department of State. This was geared towards unlocking the potential of West African entrepreneurs, social activists, and developers in uncovering solutions to post-COVID challenges. Through a contest, training, idea-a-thon and follow-on funding, they sought to activate a network of young entrepreneurs and innovators from Guinea, Mali, Senegal, and Togo to source and grow innovative solutions. Learn their seven-stage process in the AfrIdea case study.
3: Prepare an Agenda for Your Walking Meeting
Like all other work meetings, prior preparation is essential in facilitating walking meetings as well. An agenda, which is simply a list of things you plan to go through or achieve during a meeting, acts as a guide for the meeting. If it is prepared seriously, it can increase the value of the meeting. However, only about 37% of meetings in America actually use agendas.
Brenda Sommers, a HR Manager at Skillroads, shares her thoughts:
“While managers spend 35-50% of their time in work meetings, more than half of company executives see these meetings as failures. The main reason for these failures is the lack of a clear-cut meeting purpose. Take time to create a well thought out agenda, which show the purpose and type of meeting to make sure attendees know the significance of it from the start.”
Since you will be walking, you can use stops on the way to punctuate the meeting’s agenda. You can carry a smartphone or tablet to help you quickly check the items on the agenda as you go along as well as tick off key points discussed.
4: Plan the Route for Your Walking Meetings
You will need to pick your route early – before even writing the agenda. Think about the distractions that may arise along the way and decide whether they will negatively affect the meeting before settling on a venue. If there are a lot of attendees, you can pick leaders to guide smaller teams.
5: Ensure the Situation Is Appropriate for a Walking Meeting
While walking meetings are fantastic for the mind and body, not all kinds of meetings can be held when walking. Therefore, assess the situation first and decide if it is appropriate to hold the meeting during a walk. Walk and talks are ideal for discussing an idea, building on a shared goal, or knowing each other better.
However, things like status updates meetings or regular planning meetings will won’t probably work well with walking. If the meeting is an innovative one: great! Do it while walking. However, if it is formal, private, or sensitive, it’s better to keep it indoors.
6: Take Notes for Follow-Up During the Walking Meeting
You can take voice notes on your mobile phone or tablet for follow up after the meeting is done. However, if jotting down notes as the meeting progresses is cumbersome, make sure you write down the most important ideas discussed as soon as the session is over.
7: Share the Benefits of Walk and Talk Meetings
The biggest challenge is probably selling the idea to your colleagues and getting them on board- especially if the concept is new to your company. To make people more comfortable with the idea, talk about the successes and benefits of walking meetings to them. Have fun while conducting meetings outdoors and even add points of interests/destinations that will encourage your colleagues to go for walks. Soon, more people will be open to walk and talks.
According to an Udemy report, 3 out of 4 employees – about 70% – admit that they get distracted while on the job. The same survey found that gossip and small talk account for 54% of disruptions in meetings. Apart from better physical health, walking meetings make people more focused, productive, energetic, and creative than traditional meetings. Plus, they decrease the frequency of office interruptions.
About the author
Alice Berg is a blogger and a career advisor, who received a degree in Social Work and Applied Social Studies. Now she helps people to find their own way in life, gives career advice and guidance, helps young people to prepare for their careers. You can find Alice on Twitter and Medium.