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Opinion: Get outdoors for cost-saving, productive meetings

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Have your meetings increased in the past year? Have you ever stopped to calculate the hourly salary cost involved with each meeting? Now, multiply that times 52, 26, 12 or 4, depending on the frequency of the meeting. Is that number astounding?

In a survey of 182 senior managers in various industries, Harvard Business Review found the typical executive spends an average of 23 hours in meetings each week. Sound familiar?

Most managers dislike meetings. According to research magazine MIT Sloan Management Review, more than 61% of managers said that meetings:

• keep them from completing their work;

• are unproductive and inefficient;

• come at the expense of deep thinking; and

• miss opportunities to improve the team’s cohesiveness.

You can avoid these pitfalls by changing the format.

Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs was adamant about keeping meetings small. He declined an invitation from former President Barack Obama, who invited him to a gathering of tech moguls, because he felt the group was too large.

Jobs reportedly would ask people to leave Apple meetings if he felt their presence was unnecessary. Frequently, he held one-on-one meetings while walking. I call these “walk and talks.”

Walk and talk meetings offer many benefits, including these six.

1. Walking stimulates the thought process. A walk outdoors can help you think more clearly, giving you a new perspective. The fresh air and exercise can help you to work through problems, spurring your creativity. Walking can make you smarter because the brain functions at peak efficiency as glucose and oxygen increase.

2. Walking is good for your overall health. Numerous studies show walking can positively impact obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, dementia, Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis. Walking boosts your immune system, helping you fight off illnesses. And my favorite, walking slows the aging process, mentally and physically.

3. A 15- to 30-minute walk can energize your body, spirit and mind. If you think you are too tired to move, take a walk. Walking reduces fatigue. Taking a walk can clear brain fog, making it easier to complete a task or follow through on an idea. Walk and talks can help you refocus your thoughts on the positive with gratefulness.

4. Walk and talks take you and your client or colleague out of the confines of a building. Getting outdoors can open up an entirely new dialogue. We all have an innate need to connect with nature; this is called biophilia. Satisfying our biophilic needs changes our attitude and outlook. Getting away from the workplace can introduce new topics and stimulate conversations that might not happen in an office or restaurant setting.

5. A walk and talk offers a nonthreatening environment for delicate issues. A walk and talk may be the best way to handle a subject that feels confrontational or difficult in the confines of an office. Walking reduces stress and tension. If you are trying to build a relationship and trust, walking on a nature trail or a park may be the perfect setting.

6. Walking outdoors stirs up feelings of gratitude and well-being. Like gratitude, walking can improve health, mood, energy levels, sleep, love life, mental decline and add years to your life. Gratitude and walking can decrease stress and blood pressure, and help to reduce depression.

Make plans now to launch walk and talk meetings. Wear a mask and enjoy the fresh air and exercise.

If you cannot physically walk with your co-workers, use an app like WhatsApp or others, and walk together at different locations. I have tried this, and it works well. You experience many of the same benefits as you would in person.

I encourage you to introduce the idea to colleagues, clients and friends. You may be surprised at their reaction. Many are eager to get out of the office and enjoy the outdoors after a cold winter and COVID-19 isolation. We spend too many hours sitting in our car, at the computer or desk. Check out L.L.Bean’s Be an Outsider at Work campaign for more ideas on taking the workplace outdoors.

Walking is something most everyone can do. Invest in a good pair of shoes and keep them handy for your next walk and talk opportunity. Spring is the perfect time to begin.

Why not schedule a walk and talk for future meetings?

LaDonna Greiner is the author of the “21 Reasons to Say Thank You” series, a photographer and a motivational speaker with a focus on gratitude. She serves as national immediate past chair of the Association of Women in Communication. She can be reached at ladonna.g@21reasons.life.

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