The Importance of “Walking Meetings” Now and Post-Pandemic

With coronavirus, social distancing and work-from-home orders, we have to get creative on how to connect with coworkers and stay healthy. People are beginning to hold “walking meetings” at six feet apart to kill multiple birds with one stone.

During this pandemic, getting outside for some fresh air and exercise (safely) is important. Working face-to-face with coworkers also has its benefits, including fostering relationships and brainstorming. One form of “meeting” is growing increasingly popular, where people can catch up and bounce ideas off one another, six feet apart and outside: “walking meetings.”

One article from the Washingtonian looks specifically at how D.C. residents are beginning to get creative with their “new power lunch” during the coronavirus-era. The outdoor, walking meeting lets coworkers socialize beyond their immediate family, get some exercise and foster work productivity and creativity. After all, while Zoom and Google videos are impressively effective for work-from-home situations, nothing can replace in-person, human contact.

Here is the protocol for safe “walking meetings” during the pandemic:

  • Meet outside one’s home or at a predetermined spot. No ringing the doorbell, no knocking—just wait politely.
  • No physical greeting. It can be hard to refrain from hugging or shaking hands with a friend or coworker—especially during these times. But physical greetings increase the spread of COVID-19, so it’s better you do not.
  • Pick a route. Decide on how much time you have and then pick a route to walk (or run?). You can go through the neighborhood or around the park. Make sure you avoid large crowds, busy streets and urban areas. Bring a mask.
  • Walk distantly. Stay several feet away from one another, even if that means one person walks on the sidewalk and the other on the street. Do not walk with more than one or two people a day, and do not walk with those over the age of 60.

Many people say they want to continue walking meetings even after the pandemic. It is a great way to get out of the office and get some steps in during a day of sitting.

An article from Harvard Business Review on walking meetings notes the emotional and mental benefits of walking, too. Recent research suggests that walking fosters creative thinking, honest exchanges with coworkers, more productive habits and healthy habits. Plus, we have all heard that “sitting is the new smoking,” which is not that surprising since more and more people are remaining stationary for much too long during the day.

The Harvard Business Review conducted its own study on “walking and talking” during the pandemic, and the results were overwhelming positive. Researchers surveyed 150 working adults in the U.S. They found that “those who participate in walking meetings are 5.25 percent more likely to report being creative at their jobs than those who do not. Additionally, the responses suggest that walking meetings support cognitive engagement, or focus, on the job. Those who participate in walking meetings are 8.5 percent more likely to report high levels of engagement.”

The idea of walking and talking is not new. In fact, experts have been suggesting that they should be popularized for year. The recent coronavirus pandemic, though, has reminded us of the importance of exercise, fresh air and in-person interaction. Maybe this was the walking meeting wake-up call we all needed.

Author Nilofer Merchant has an informative TedTalk on how walking and talking has a number of benefits that we may not realize—and it could even save your life in the long-term:

 

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