Steve Jobs was renowned for taking ‘walking meetings’, but how could getting outside free up your business? There’s more to it than just fresh air and a nice view. Outdoor meetings can increase energy, productivity and help you de-stress.
It seems frightening to think that on average people are spending 9.3 hours a day sitting down: for many this is longer than they spend sleeping or doing anything else throughout the day. In an attempt to ditch the boardroom, the concept of the ‘walking meeting’ is on the rise. The idea is simple: instead of holding an important meeting in a confined office environment, allow the meeting agenda to be discussed during a walk in the fresh air. Recent studies show that walking meetings are proven to increase creativity, productivity and boost healthy living.
Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple, was famous for his desire to stretch boundaries and his extraordinary vision and innovation. Jobs developed the idea of walking meetings within the business community and his biography confirms that “taking a long walk was his preferred way to have a serious conversation.” He took long walks to exercise, problem solve, contemplate and hold meetings. Facebook’s Marc Zuckerberg is also a fan and is said to take new recruits on a walk around Silicon Valley before offering them a job.
However, it is not only technology CEOs who favour walking meetings; evidence suggests much earlier innovative figures such as Darwin, Beethoven, Dickens and Nietzche also found benefits in taking regular walks. Philosopher Nietzche believed that “all truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”
Those benefits have recently been confirmed in a study by Stanford University in 2014. Stanford’s research proved that walking meetings have significant benefits in increasing creativity. The study measured creativity in individuals whilst walking against the creativity of those sitting down. The study found that, on average, the output of creativity increased by an average of sixty percent whilst walking and a notable difference was found in 81% of the participants. The study also concluded that increased productivity levels continued even when the participants sat down again shortly after their walk.
The study also showed that it was the actual act of walking which boosted creativity, as opposed to the environment; this was confirmed by examining individuals who were asked to walk on a treadmill facing a blank wall. So, even if it’s not a beautiful day or if your office is in the middle of an industrial estate, it’s the walking itself that counts.
The benefits of holding walking meetings stretch beyond higher rates of creativity as walking also aids healthy living and helps us de-stress. Walking for just one mile can burn up to one hundred calories and each step will use two hundred muscles of the human body. Walking also helps to prevent physical inactivity which can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and a number of cancers.
Whilst our Great British weather might sometimes hamper our otherwise good intentions of holding walking meetings and a soggy dash in the cold wet rain might not seem conducive to your next ‘truly great thought’, the potential to boost creativity, increase productivity, reduce stress and improve health could mean that it is time to make your next meeting a ‘walk in the park’.