By Kathleen Eyre
I have my blue visor on, my sunscreen rubbed in and white walking shoes laced up. I’m strolling the shores of Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland, Calif., stealing a glimpse of the geese as my companion and I talk.
But we aren’t just talking.
We are conducting business.
We are having what’s called a walking meeting, and it’s the good kind of multi-tasking: I’m working as I exercise and enjoy the outdoors. We are all so busy at home and at work, so reclaiming some fresh air and exercise during the workday is smart time management.
The health benefits of walking are well documented — just 30 minutes a day, five days a week is enough to improve your health.
Research has shown that regular brisk walking lowers blood pressure and the effects of depression. Walking reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease by 40 percent. Clearly, the more we walk and the farther our two feet take us, the more rewards we reap.
Every Body Walk
As an organization, Kaiser Permanente has been walking the “walk talk” in myriad ways. The most visible evidence is our Everybody Walk! program (www.everywalk.org). On the website, you’ll find plenty of free resources, including a mobile-phone app.
Now that I’ve covered the health benefits, what are the business benefits of a walking meeting?
I began holding walking meetings in 2007, soon after I came to work for Regional Health Education at Kaiser Permanente’s downtown Oakland offices. Our department’s objective is to help our members take care of their own health, and we strive to set a good example of that. Walking meetings were part of the culture when I arrived.
I quickly realized that walking meetings were a wise path for me to take. I encounter fewer interruptions, distractions from my computer and smartphone, and other work demands competing for my attention. I’m a kinetic learner, so the conversations and my thinking while walking are more alive. The change of atmosphere and movement stimulate my creativity.
Kathleen Eyre and coworker having a waling meeting in downtown Oakland
I have also found that walking meetings have strengthened relationships with my team and helped foster new ones across the organization. Getting out of the traditional office setting has been conducive to connecting with people in a different light. And when I visit colleagues in our medical centers, I make sure to take walking tours there so I can best understand their environment.
Six years after my first walking meeting, I now hold two or three a week. I’m always ready for a meeting-on-the-go. I keep T-shirts, yoga pants, visors, shoes and sunscreen in my office. Decide on your own routine, but since I like to build in time to change, I find walking meetings work best around the lunch hour.
I encourage those who want to try walking meetings to find a favorite route. Choose a, park, a quiet street, or just a destination route that ends in picking up lunch or coffee.
But remember: Only certain meetings are fit for walking. The ones that work best are more conversational, such as check-ins, brainstorms, “getting to know you,” or shared problem-solving sessions. This is not the time for discipline or negotiations.
As with any productive meeting, it’s always a good idea to conclude your walk-and-talk with a summary of how each participant is going to follow up.
Every time I return from a walking meeting, I feel great. I was able to get work done while getting a mini-workout. With my head clear from a walk, I can then focus better in the office.
Try it. You may find you’re at your most productive in sneakers.
About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve more than 9 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to kp.org/newscenter.