Jenny suggested that we go for a walking meeting. It sounded fun and the weather was fine so why not. Actually it has been unseasonably warm for the time of year and the wind was blowing a gale but we are hardy folk and were not going to let a spell of blustery weather put us off.
The concept is quite simple. Rather than having a meeting in a stuffy office or on a beanbag or a comfy sofa, you have the meeting while walking around. Ideally you go outside but I don’t think the rules are that well defined. Jenny suggested we do it as part of our approach to New Ways of Working. It is certainly agile and flexible and will get your heart rate up as you expend both physical and mental energy.
I’d arranged a meeting to talk to her about electronic records and document management and so I asked her if we should give it a go. We did.
We only had half an hour and so we made our way out of County Hall, down towards the Durham Light Infantry Museum, behind the back of County Hall and back up to her office. It was about three thousand steps.
We wanted to see if it would work as a concept. Would we be able to talk about abstract issues while remembering to put one foot in front of the other? Now walking and talking at the same time has never been that taxing and it turned out that Jenny was pretty competent as well. We were naturals. When I think about it though, walking meetings are something we do all the time. We normally call them conversations. We have them at the weekend when we are out shopping or taking a stroll in the park and so what is the difference when at work?
Well, they are a bit more formal. You can’t just talk about the weather, or sport. They have to be work related at least in spirit. Then again you find that you don’t have the normal accoutrements that go with office based meetings. There is no white board, there is no desk to lean on and there is no laptop. You could use your phone yet that would take multitasking to a whole new level.
They are also paperless. This has the advantage that either you have to read the papers in advance or you can’t refer to them. I suppose you could carry them around with you but it wouldn’t be the same.
So, did it work? In short, yes. Strolling through the woods with the wind in your hair and kicking up a carpet of golden leaves certainly lifted the soul. We were able to talk in depth about some complex issues in a more relaxed and informal way. We made it back in one piece, refreshed and more healthy. It was work but not as we know it.
I’m not sure that it would work for all meetings but I would recommend giving it a go, weather permitting.