This week we are challenging you to try a walking meeting. Walking meetings are a great alternative to the sit down meetings we are all used to. They are a chance to get some fresh air, be active and think on your feet.
With a little thought and preparation walking can be incorporated into most meeting formats. One to ones, informal catch ups, team meetings, breakout groups for discussion, workshop presentations (think walkshops) and networking all lend themselves to a walking meeting. You may choose to combine walking with a longer sit down meeting at a relevant point in the agenda or the whole meeting may be carried out on foot.
And there are lots of good reasons for adopting walking meetings too. They can have a positive impact on staff health and wellbeing by reducing sedentary behaviour and can easily be embedded into the company’s meeting culture. By helping staff introduce a bit more activity into their working day there also lots of benefits for the workplace around staff retention, sickness absence, morale and productivity. Walking meetings can help to focus attention on discussion, creative thinking and problem solving.
Here’s a TED talk by Nilofer Merchant on why she believes walking meetings are so good for the bottom line:
When preparing for a walking meeting there are some practicalities you will need to think through. The format of the meeting, note taking, walking routes, safety and where to get a decent coffee are all points well worth considering. Think about the number of people that will be attending the meeting. If you have a large group you may need to assign roles to your team to facilitate discussion and feedback actions afterwards. If you need to take notes, plan your route to include convenient stopping points and make use of technology, most mobile phones are equipped with a voice recorder and apps for note taking which are easier to use on the move than pen and paper.
Prior to your meeting taking place it’s a good idea to provide your colleagues with a briefing on your meeting plans. This could be included in their calendar appointment. Let them know that you are planning a walking meeting, provide them with an agenda, relevant background reading, an idea of the route you will be taking and how you will follow up the meeting with actions, etc.
Choose Your Route
You will want to find a suitable route for your walking meeting. This doesn’t necessarily mean winding footpaths with stunning views of chocolate-box lochs and mountains, a quiet street with a good pavement or local park will do just fine. Here are a few things you should consider when planning your route:
Choose a wide, relatively flat path or pavement with a good surface and few obstacles. A park, towpath or the grounds of a business park are perfect. Think, is your route suitable for wheelchair users or people with different abilities, are there dropped kerbs and suitable access gates?
The route should start from the front door of your office. Map out several routes of varying length to suit your meeting and measure in time rather than distance, so have ‘the 15 minute route’, ‘the 30 minute route’ and so on. Are there points where you can stop to take some notes, get a coffee or cut back to the office if necessary?
It’s best to avoid busy roads where there will be noise, traffic, bustle and commotion. The route should also feel safe and it’s best to avoid muddy paths as people will be in their work clothes.
Make use of local path networks, there are lots of resources online to help you find and map walking routes, see our list of apps and resources at the Paths for All website.
Walking is a safe, low impact, low risk activity but you need to keep your walking meetings safe and sound. Carry out a risk assessment of your routes before you start using them. Speak with your business’s health and safety officer to ensure you are following your company’s health and safety procedures and policies.
Your risk assessment should contain information about the condition of the paths, identify hazards such as crossings, main roads, street furniture, etc. The risk assessment should be reviewed on a regular basis and take into account different weather conditions and the time of year, for example a path may be fine in the spring and summer but subject to ice in the winter or damp, slippy leaves in the autumn.
Before you start your walking meeting provide staff with a briefing on the route, duration, meeting aims and format and ask them to sign out as you leave the building. Keep your calendar up to date with information about the meeting and your planned route so colleagues know where you are and when you are due back and take a charged mobile phone just in case.
If you are walking with a larger group, you may want to appoint a walk leader to oversee the walk. Paths for All provide Walk Leader training specifically for workplaces. A back marker can also be positioned to make sure the group stays together.
The word on the Street
So, there are lots of reasons to try walking meetings. And you’d be in good company too. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and US President Barack Obama have both used walking meetings to think, walk and talk. Why don’t you?