October 16, 2017
Want to Make Your Meetings More Productive? Go for a Walk!
By James G. Brooks

A few months ago I had an epiphany: The lines of communication at my business had some kinks. Our discussions weren’t as fluid as they once were. Partially, this was because I had been traveling a lot and was out of touch with the daily rhythms of our office.

While sitting down for yet another roundtable meeting, I had a thought: Why not go for a walk while we carried on this conversation? After all, our office is only one block from Central Park in New York.

This idea was a lark, but it stuck. I have found that walking-and-talking meetings foster better communication and break up the monotony. Instead of dreading the next meeting, some of us look forward to it. Here are four reasons you should consider taking it outside, too:

  1. It’s healthier. By now, we’ve all heard about the evils of sitting all day. Studies have shown that sitting for hours a day can increase risk for diabetes, heart disease, obesity, kidney problems and premature death. The good news is that the effect of sitting is easy to counteract. One two-minute walk per hour seems to offset the damage that sitting incurs. A walking meeting then helps employees stay healthy and avoids the effects of sitting for a half hour or however long a meeting takes.
  2. Walking fuels creativity. Granted, the effects aren’t dramatic, but a recent study found that people who engage in walking meetings are 5.25% more likely to report being creative at their jobs than those who don’t. The study also found that those who participate in walking meetings are 8.5% more likely to report high levels of engagement. Why? Researchers say that our brains are more relaxed during a walk, which helps us focus and produce creative thoughts.
  3. People are more engaged. One major benefit to walking meetings is that you can’t bring your laptop with you. Even looking at your phone is tougher since you’re not only supposed to be paying attention to the conversation but to where you’re walking as well. Some companies, like the travel publication Skift, have banned the use of laptops in meetings because they tend to make meetings less productive and longer. With walking meetings, you don’t have to take the hard line, but laptops are eliminated by necessity.
  4. They eliminate the hierarchical trappings of a traditional meeting. In a typical meeting, the boss sits at one end of the table while his or her employees attempt to impress. No matter how approachable the boss is, it’s hard to resist such hierarchical trappings. I have to admit that walking meetings don’t completely eliminate this aspect of meetings -- the boss is always the boss -- but it does make it easier to have conversations that are more about pragmatic decision making than trying to curry favor.

While there are many pluses, there is a downside. Unfortunately, you can’t really record walk and talk meetings. Some organizations have taken to recording all their meetings so that staffers who didn’t attend can access them whenever they want.

Aside from that though, walking meetings have been a real boon to our organization. Sometimes we find that we’re pretty much up to date and there’s not much to discuss, but we still want to have that time. So we cancel the meeting and just go for a walk instead.

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