You’re on deadline for a proposal, yet the ideas just aren’t coming into focus. Or maybe you wrapped up yet another brainstorm that ended up going nowhere productive. Sometimes a little bit of movement and a change of scenery is exactly what we need to refresh our perspective and reignite our creative problem-solving savvy. And yet the on-the-ground realities of back-to-back calls and meeting malaise can mean that our workdays aren’t very conducive to this by design.
One practice that’s growing in popularity among academics and team leaders alike starts with what’s already on your calendar: Choose one upcoming meeting and take it outside. Scheduling a walking meeting exposes you to new environmental stimuli outside your usual working setup that can help recontextualize the problem you’ve been grappling with, and may just spark the new idea or insight you need to move a project forward. The practice has been found to be particularly effective for teams of different levels of experience, alleviating any stressful power dynamics and allowing the opportunity to communicate and connect on a more personal level. “The fact that we are walking side-by-side means the conversation is more peer-to-peer than when I am in my office and they are across a desk from me, which reinforces the organizational hierarchy,” one executive shares.
Research bears this out: One study discussed in the Harvard Business Review found that teams who implement walking meetings are 8.5% more likely to be highly engaged with their work, and 5% more likely to feel more creative in their output. And a subsequent pilot study of white-collar workers published in Preventing Chronic Disease found that 30-minute walking meetings were widely implemented across teams without an additional burden on the existing workflow. The key is to make sure your colleagues are all on board to explore a new setting for your meeting, and to set a predetermined path so you don’t end up meandering or running late for your next commitment.
So before booking the same conference room as usual for your weekly sync, get started on your Microstep by inviting your colleagues outside for a walk and talk. You may find that the break from routine takes your work in new and unexpected directions.
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