Take A Hike: Walking Meetings Bolster Health And Productivity
With management, comes meetings. Saint Leo professor offers advice on how to turn the bane of the business world into a physically beneficial experience.
Chances are, you're looking forward to many aspects of a future business position as you pursue your online management degree — taking on a leadership role, contributing to your company or encouraging employees. But the inevitable meetings managers endure are another story.
While valuable and necessary work occurs in meetings, these sessions are often too frequent and too long. All that time sitting around the conference table has real health consequences. More meetings usually mean more sitting, a habit that can lead to heart disease, diabetes, back problems, leg disorders and muscle degeneration.
Tempted to clear your calendar? Avoiding meetings may not be practical (or permitted). But what if you could walk and talk? An assistant professor of management at Saint Leo, Dr. Russell Clayton has researched the benefits of walking meetings and says the practice not only has physical benefits but psychological ones, as well.
Work is still getting done at a walking meeting, so the bottom line is the same for the company. There's no extra cost associated with walking, and the pertinent issues still get covered. The physical activity may actually make employees more focused on their jobs. Workers participating in walking meetings are 8.5 percent more likely to report high levels of engagement, according to Dr. Clayton. They are 5.25 percent more likely to say they are being creative at their jobs.
Dr. Clayton has written for national media organizations and had his work-life balance research published in academic journals and popular media. In the Harvard Business Review, he addressed common questions about how to hold a walking meeting and offers these tips for success.
Can any meeting be a walking meeting?
Dr. Clayton: If you need a lot of materials handy, a whiteboard or conference call, a walking meeting may not be appropriate. If colleagues are brainstorming solutions to an issue or discussing decisions, a walking meeting can work out well.
How many people should participate?
Dr. Clayton: A walking meeting isn't the time to get the entire division together. Keep it small. More than three or four people becomes too difficult to manage.
How do you get employees enthusiastic about it?
Dr. Clayton: Offer an incentive. For example, plan a route that passes a point of interest that may capture employees' attention. Have bottled water available on warm days. And give everyone a heads up if possible. People might want to bring a change of shoes or clothing. But remember, walking to Starbucks for a calorie-laden Frappuccino will negate your health benefits.
How long should a walking meeting last?
Dr. Clayton: This is flexible. If the meeting needs to last an hour or more (e.g., due to a large agenda or complex topics) then that meeting might not be a good one for a walking meeting. However, if you accomplish all of the meeting tasks within 30 minutes and still want to walk more, this might lead to more creative thinking for those taking part in the meeting. A general rule of thumb: the longer the meeting needs to be, the less likely that it should be a walking meeting.
Do you have any advice for online degree students who may spend a lot of time at work sitting and then even more time sitting to do their coursework?
Dr. Clayton: I know several of our online classes have group projects which require the students to communicate with each other. Setting up a conference call with classmates to discuss the project and then turning that conference call into a walking meeting (using your cell phone) is a way to reduce sitting throughout the day.
I like to use freeconferencecall.com for a situation like this. Students might also decide to do their work at a standing desk in order to reduce sitting. Standing desks can get very expensive, so perhaps they might look into this (click here) standing desk "hack" that can be made with only $22 worth of materials from Ikea.
American employees on average will work enough hours in their lifetimes to add up to 10 years and spend the equivalent of two years in meetings. Why not do what you can to make that time both productive and healthy?
The next time you see your calendar filling up with meetings, don't bother booking the conference room. Do your brain and body a favor and take a hike.
Image credits: Piti Tangchawalit on Shutterstock
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