Take that meeting outdoors!

The idea of taking a meeting outdoors was introduced to me by a dean with whom I work. We had a problem we were trying to solve and needed to do some strategic thinking. When deciding where to meet, he suggested that we could meet in his office or my office or could take a walk. So, I met him outside, and we walked around the quadrangle. Before we started, he shared how philosophers like Aristotle extolled the virtues of walking to stimulate inspiration. In that spirit, we took off on our walk and had an exceedingly productive conversation, with creative problem-solving while getting some exercise and fresh air. I left the discussion rejuvenated.

Did you know that there is an ailment called “sitting disease” and that the average American office worker spends approximately fifteen hours of their day sitting? Research conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that “those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking.” Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle affects our bodies, negatively impacting our health and can lead to premature death.

While we may not realize it, being in the same environment and the same physical position day in and day out puts us in a pattern where we can limit our ability to expand our minds and way of thinking. A Stanford study found that walking significantly affects creative output by about 60%. When we walk, it increases the blood flow to the brain, which is essential for cognitive functioning. Psychological research also supports that connecting with nature has substantial health and mental benefits. Furthermore, working outdoors can result in greater engagement, productivity, and focus.

So, let’s take that meeting outdoors because it can enhance our well-being and communication and boost our productivity!

Tips for your outdoor meeting:

  • Before setting up that outdoor or walking meeting, be mindful that team members may have mobility concerns, chronic pain issues, or other ailments that you may not be aware of, so introduce the idea, have a discussion, and see where it goes.
  • Sitting outdoors might be logistically better than walking if you have a large team.
  • Check the weather forecast; 98 degrees with 90% humidity might not make for a good meeting.
  • Find a space in proximity to the office and surrounded by or close to nature.
  • Schedule in advance so everyone can wear their comfortable shoes. For example, I love my heels but dislike using them to aerate the soil.
  • If you have a remote team, you can all be in nature individually while having your meeting as a conference call.
  • Build 15 minutes on the back end of the meeting to reflect on the format and identify how the experience was different. What worked, and what did not work?

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