Analysis: While these meetings are not a complex conundrum, walk and talk meetings must be bound by a set of guidelines to ensure that they are fit for purpose, maximise employee's time and produce positive outcomes.

When Covid-19 restrictions have finally been lifted, the walk and talk meetings made increasingly popular by iconic names such as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg could become a new feature of organisational cultures right across the nation.

Walking meetings, as they are also referred to, provide organisations with a fantastic opportunity to offer employees alternative healthy meeting options.

And, with The World Health Organisation, providing us with constant doom and gloom data about the serious implications of physical inactivity on people's health, it could conceivably be argued that organisations have an important role to play in supporting the well-being of their employees.

Studies show that prolonged periods of sitting, as occurs in many offices throughout the country, have been linked to a range of chronic mental and physical health conditions.

Research suggests, that each of us should walk at least 10,000 steps daily to improve health and reduce the medical risks of inactivity. However, the challenge can be finding the time to squeeze exercise into an already jam packed working day.

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From Radio 1's The Business The right to disconnect from work came into place this week. It's part of a Government effort to improve work life balance for people. The Tánaiste has invited submissions around remote working with Jerry Kennelly of Tweak.com and Tracy Keogh of Grow Remote.

If sedentary workers could merge work and health by scheduling a walking meeting at least once a week, it would certainly be a step in the right direction.

While these meetings are not a complex conundrum to be deciphered, walk and talk meetings must be bound by a set of guidelines to ensure that they are fit for purpose, maximise employee's time and produce positive outcomes for both the employee and employer.

So, while the concept sounds simple, if you want to increase the likelihood of employee engagement with this new style of meeting format, then adhering to the following golden rules might be worth considering.

  • An employer should never use walk-and-talk meetings exclusively or make them mandatory.
     
  • Don’t leave anybody behind. An inclusive organisation would carefully consider the support accommodations that maybe required for employees with physical disabilities or conditions to take part.
     
  • Walk and talk meetings should have a maximum of three participants, but they generally work best on a one-on-one basis, with the primary focus on creativity, strategy and innovation.
     
  • Schedule walk and talk meetings in advance so that employees can dress for the occasion and assess their physical capacity on the given day.
     
  • Ensure that your walking meetings are purposeful, appoint someone to run the meeting and be clear on your end goal.
     
  • Select a destination in advance, as this gives structure and defines a natural end to the meeting. The great outdoors is the ideal location for these meetings because fresh air stimulates fresh ideas. Try to select a route that is quiet and peaceful.
     
  • Walking is a great way to stay healthy. So, resist the temptation to neutralise the health benefits by making the local bakery or ice cream parlour your final destination point.

There are countless benefits to including walk and talk meetings as part of your weekly schedule, these include improvements in:

1) Physical Health: There is no shortage of scientific research to back up the effectiveness of adding walking to your working day. Walking increases cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, prevents weight gain and reduces the risk of chronic diseases.

Improved physical fitness helps us all to look and feel better and also has the added advantage of boosting our immune system. Promoting a healthy workforce can improve health outcomes for employees and reduce levels of absenteeism.

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From Radio 1's Drivetime Dr Paul D'Alton, Associate Professor of Psychology UCD and Head of Clinical Psychology at St Vincent’s University Hospital, explains the A.B.R. exercise which can be used as a rescue remedy in our every day lives.

2) Mental Health: There is mounting evidence that physical exercise such as walking improves our mood, increases our coping skills and makes us healthier and happier.

Therefore, making conscious efforts to support positive behavioural changes, such as swapping a traditional office meeting for a walk and talk meeting can have positive effects on employee’s mental health.

3) Productivity: Exercise and workplace productivity go hand in hand. It’s a no brainer that being productive and alert at work gives you that extra edge to accomplish more.

When you exercise, you increase blood flow to the brain which can help sharpen your awareness, lift your mood, and increase your energy levels leaving you ready to tackle your next big work project.

4) Connectivity: Walking meetings can build comradery among employees, increase employee engagement and improve communications.

Walking is a great leveller as it can remove the shackles of the hierarchical boardroom, freeing employees to move and talk freely. It can often be far more comfortable to walk side by side with a colleague rather than directly facing them across a desk.

5) Creativity: Studies have shown that changes of scenery, especially in nature, can trigger new neuro-pathways in our brains which produce new ideas and support our problem-solving skills. Great thinkers throughout history such as Aristotle, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, and William Wordsworth have inextricably linked thinking to walking.

So the next time you're sending a meeting invitation, why not go the extra mile and consider setting the meeting location as the great outdoors and walk and talk your way to success.   


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ