Walking Meetings: The Research Says…

Woman walking while holding phone with headphones on

We’ve all been in virtual and in-person meetings that seem to drag on longer than expected, causing meeting fatigue. To combat this, companies are implementing unique methods to keep attendees engaged, like providing snacks, decorating meeting spaces with interesting themes, providing exercise balls as chairs to allow people to move around during a meeting, and more. But how about changing it up even more? Whether you’re working from home or “the office,” try conducting your meeting outside.

There are some potential alternative meeting styles that can make the idea of meetings more appealing and that may also produce more positive outcomes. Walking meetings have become increasingly more common in recent years, but are there any true benefits to this format? A study by Oppezzo and Schwartz (2014) found that:

  • walking boosts creative, divergent thinking, encouraging multiple potential solutions, and allows for more cognitive flexibility.
  • on average, compared to sitting, walking has a negative effect on convergent thinking, which focuses on coming up with a single concise and effective solution.
  • walking increases talkativeness.
  • people retain a residual creative boost after walking.

More specifically, walking in a natural environment (compared to urban) has been shown to be more beneficial to directed-attention performance (topics that someone is intentionally thinking about) and mood (Berman et al., 2009).

If you intend to have an in-person walking meeting with someone, provide advance notice so that he or she comes prepared with the proper footwear. This method is best suited for small groups due to physical constraints and space, and because it provides more opportunities for discussion, giving everyone a chance to voice their thoughts and opinions.

Meeting topics that require a large amount of note taking or visuals are better suited for an office environment with a screen and whiteboard. If you’re working remotely and conducting a walking meeting with someone over the phone, consider using headphones to limit distractions and allow for hands-free use. Whether you’re back in the office or still working from home, walking meetings are a good opportunity to increase creativity and incorporate more movement into your day without sacrificing productivity.

References: Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. (2008). The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological science19(12), 1207-1212.

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