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The Walk-and-Talk Meeting: A Plan for Healthier Employees and Businesses

By Liz Elting

All Business Experts - November 19, 2014

Five years ago, I was about to settle into the conference room for a meeting. It was a beautiful day in New York City. The 39th-floor conference room, overlooking Park Avenue through floor-to-ceiling windows, showed amazing views of the city below. I thought, “It’s so nice out. I wish I were outside right now.” Then I realized, “Why aren’t I?”

When the other participants in the meeting showed up, I suggested we head outside for a walk while we talked. Since then, I have been walking and talking for many of my meetings. Before work, during work, and after work, I walk and talk because it spurs creativity and removes walls and silos (quite literally), and because it’s good for me, for my employees, and for the health of the business.

Conducting Business in a 10,000-Step Day

The headline du jour goes something like this: “Sitting is killing you.” Anyone who has spent the better part of her adult life in an office setting can feel that this is – at least to some extent – true. Your lower back hurts. Your shoulders are stiff. Your metabolism has slowed.

You know you should be squeezing more exercise into your life, but as an executive in a fast-paced business, your early-morning hours are for work, and you’d probably like to hang onto your evening hours for time with family or friends. In any case, studies now suggest your time in the gym might not offset the damage of sitting for eight or more hours every workday.

As more and more of us start measuring our daily activity through our fitness trackers and other wearables devices, we’re getting a clearer picture of how far we really are from reaching the 10,000-step daily standard for minimal fitness. Getting more hours into the day is a nice dream, but an unrealistic plan. The only way to get moving and still meet demanding work schedules is to work on the move – and that’s a lot easier to do than most people think.

The Many Benefits of the Walk-and-Talk Meeting

Let’s get the obvious arguments against walking meetings out of the way. These do not work when you have to meet with 12 department heads, or if you’re incorporating any sort of presentation or complex technology.

However, if you’re planning to have a conversation or brainstorm with one or two other people, there are plenty of perks to doing so while you walk around a nearby park or through the streets around your office building. Here are a few of those benefits:

  • The outside world is more inspiring than your conference room. Creative thinking is critical to nearly every business function, and it’s hard to come by when people feel stifled by their surroundings. The literal fresh air can introduce metaphorical fresh air into your brainstorming sessions.
  • It’s easier to ignore barriers when you can’t see them. It’s amazing how much more freely employees will speak simply because they’re outside the confines of the company walls. Without the trappings of conference room seating arrangements or the boss’s office, employees often share their ideas more openly.
  • Healthy employees are more productive, effective employees. It’s hard for your employees to care about customer satisfaction when they’re in pain from sitting 50 hours a week, month after month, year after year. Keeping employees moving tends to keep them healthier and happier, and that’s good for business your business as well as your company culture.

I walked to work with an employee the other day. We were discussing the progress on a key project, and some bumps the team recently hit. Over the span of a few blocks, my colleague and I talked about how to reallocate some of the staff’s time to better tap into employee strengths and get the initiative back on track. It was a collaborative conversation that got us where we needed to go before we ever arrived at the office, and it set the pace for a productive day.

This is just one example, and I know not everyone has the kind of commute where walking to the office is an option, but don’t let that stand in your way. Encourage your office to get creative about finding time to get up and get moving. Taking a long walk at lunch is great, but on a busy day taking a few minutes to jog up and down the stairs is still better than spending that break cruising the internet. Every little bit counts, for the health of both your employees and your company – and it all starts with those first few steps.