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Walking meetings - step by step

As the workplace becomes increasingly dominated by technology, our daily routines become ever-more stationary. Between the 24/7 'switched on' culture that encourages eating lunch 'al desko' and the recurrent struggle to get the right work-life balance, there is little time allocated to physical activity day to day.

Research conducted by Center Parcs Conferences & Events found that of 1,000 office workers surveyed, 51% only spent time outdoors during lunch or as part of their commute, while 15% spent no time outside in a nature-like environment during the working week.

Despite this, 89% of workers indicated that they would like to spend more time outside during the working week, with 59% stating that time spent outdoors is relaxing - yet only 1% of meetings took place in the fresh air.

The idea of 'walking meetings' is something which may in the first instance sound more hassle than it's worth, but the practise is being hailed as a real working solution to our sedentary lifestyles. After discovering that we sit for over nine hours a day on average, author and business guru Nilofer Merchant declared sitting down as being the 'smoking of our generation', now conducting all of her appointments as walking meetings*.

Here at Center Parcs, we have regularly been conducting internal walking meetings as the norm, taking advantage of the forest surroundings and upping our step count while talking through plans and ideas, taking inspiration from the great outdoors. But you don't necessarily need a forest on your doorstep - there are some simple ways a walking meeting can be incorporated into everyone's working routine.

Take these tips to see how walking meetings can work for you:

Timing is everything

Schedule your walking meeting for around a lunch hour or at the start or end of the day. This will minimise any worry about missing important emails or calls, as they are times when you would likely be unavailable regardless. If you aren't worrying, then you aren't distracted, leading to greater productivity during the walking meeting and ensuring increased de-stressing benefits as you enjoy taking in your surroundings. Setting yourself up for the day with time outdoors will boost creative thinking, reduce stress and clear your mind, too!

When walking works

It's important to know which meetings are appropriate to conduct on the move and which aren't, to ensure you're still getting the most productivity from the meeting itself. Meetings which require a lot of note-taking or frequent reference to documents, for example, are better conducted in a traditional format for obvious reasons, while meetings with a goal of idea generation and creative thinking work really well, thanks to the added inspiration a change of surroundings and being in the great outdoors can bring.

Keep the meeting small

Ideally no more than four people, or rotate conversations between small groups if more people are required. This avoids anyone being left out of the discussion, as well as being easier logistically - a band of 20 walking down the street may be a little hard to manage!

Plan a route beforehand

Take advantage of any local green spaces and plot a walking route that passes through any parks nearby to maximise your exposure to the natural environment. Are you situated right in the middle of a city? Choose routes that avoid too many main roads - by taking the side streets, you will have less noise and traffic distractions to contend with. Planning a route beforehand will also ensure you have control of the meeting length.

Set your phone or another recording device

You're almost guaranteed to generate some ideas worth actioning, so in place of a notebook, set your phone or another recording device to capture the conversation while you walk. You can revisit the main points and fast-forward the bits in between - if only every meeting could be like that!

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