BY CHRISTINA DAVISWhat do Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner have in common? Yes, they all had tremendous vision, profound effects on the technology industry, and amazing success, but perhaps less well known is one of the keys to their accomplishments: walking meetings. They found that creativity and problem solving were much more likely to occur while walking side by side than sitting face to face in an office.
Sitting is now our natural default. A study from the American Journal of Epidemiology found that between driving, working, eating, and relaxing, we sit at least 9.3 hours each day, which is at least 90 minutes longer than we sleep! Add the sleeping hours to the sitting hours, and when do we stand or exercise?
Researchers at Stanford University found that creativity increases by an average of 60 percent when we are walking—either indoors or outdoors. Combine that with our tendency to sit too long, and I believe the answer is clear: GET UP AND WORK! I know this may be hard for positions that require long periods of sitting, but even chauffeurs can find a way to stand and walk more often throughout their days.
How many times have you called an employee into your office, closed the door, and sat him or her down across the desk from where you are sitting? This simple act automatically creates a barrier between you and your employee. Tensions rise, questions pop up in their head, and the employee feels defensive rather than collaborative. Instead of creating this negative environment, why not take a walk?
Here are a few ways to increase your vertical time during your day:
1. Park your car farther away from the front door; take the long route to the restroom
2. Stand up when you talk on the phone; if you’re on a cellphone or speaker phone and have the space, walk around during the call
3. When working on a computer-intensive project, set a timer to remind yourself to stop and get up
4. Instead of sending an email to a person down the hall, get up and go talk to them instead
5. Change up long public transportation commutes by standing instead of sitting
6. When at home and unwinding with the evening news, take a walk around your house, go get the mail, and put out the trash during commercial breaks
7. And, the one I think every manager should embrace walking meetings
Research consistently shows that exercise can significantly decrease anxiety and stress while simultaneously improving a person’s overall mood. In Working It Out: Using Exercise in Psychotherapy, Kate Hayes, Ph.D, shows that even doctors are adopting this practice: “Some patients may become anxious when confronting something difficult in a traditional seated, face-to-face interaction. Walking in parallel with visual distractions may allow for easier engagement.” This rings true: Most of us have had the experience of a free-flowing, in-depth conversation walking on the beach with a loved one or riding in the car with a child that wouldn’t have happened face to face.
Performance reviews, brainstorming sessions, investigations, and planning for big events are all conversations that can happen on the move. During walking meetings, you are less likely to be interrupted while walking—as long as you turn your phone off—than when you are sitting in your office, ensuring more confidentiality and privacy.
For every business, human resources is a pressing concern. Finding the right talent, managing the right talent, keeping the right talent: We all face it, and we are all looking for ways to improve it. Today’s candidates are looking for a company that not only pays well but also has a well-rounded management style. Walking meetings are a valuable tool in developing productive relationships with current employees and demonstrating openness to potential new employees. [CD0617]
Christina Davis is the HR Director for The LMC Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.