Bored with the boardroom? Put on your walking shoes! It will make your meetings more fun and healthier too
How many hours a day do you spend at your desk? According to the British Psychological Society the average office worker spends an astonishing 5.41 hours per day chained to their desk. In his acclaimed book Generation X, Douglas Coupland called the 1990s cubicle desk the 'veal fatten pen' likening it the the way animals are fattened up before being sent off to slaughter – or in our case, a bigger office.
Over the years Coupland's prediction has certainly been proven to be all too true. Advances in technology have improved our lives massively but with the shift to a services sector workforce, as a nation we have been fattened up to the point where now 64% of us are overweight or obese.
Last year, the British Health Journal published significant findings highlighting the clear benefits of taking regular walks. They estimated that if everyone did the recommended 150 minutes of moderate physical exercise every week, 37,000 lives would be saved each year, 6,700 cases of breast cancer would be prevented, and we would stop 4,700 people getting colorectal cancer. Just as importantly, we would see a drop of nearly 300,000 in the number of people developing type 2 diabetes.
Now you office long-termers out there, do me a favour. Just take a minute to cast your mind back and reflect on your physical fitness before starting out in office life. The chances are you will picture a different you. Yes younger, more likely healthier. But you don't have to long for those days with summer in the air, you can create a new healthier you today.
Anyone who has experienced office life knows of tiresome, monotonous, never-ending meetings in some drab room. In many work environments the big decisions have already been made and the meetings serve as pseudo-democracy. It can be depressing.
But there have been attempts to spark movement in the office workforce. The introduction of standing desks are definitely a step in the right direction; but they don't give our mind and body the stimulation we get from fresh air and moving our bodies.
With summer slowly making an appearance, now is the time to end the office tyranny and take your meetings outside. I can hear you thinking: "But this means I don't get to stare at my phone, hoping it gives me a reason to escape the meeting!" Sorry, all that is over. It's time to explore the beautiful streets of our towns and cities. In places like Silicon Valley and New York, healthy, bright things can be found conducting meetings on the go and it's high time we brought this trend to the streets of the UK.
5 tips for making walking meetings happen at your workplace
1. Invite fewer people to the meetings: groups of four are manageable – and you could stretch to six if you're going to walk to an outside location where you will be sitting down.
2. Incentivise: perhaps you have to buy the coffees for your first walking meeting but once your colleagues realise the benefits, they will be buying your drinks forevermore.
3. Set a time limit: 30 minutes for the meeting is about right. Let's be honest – beyond that, we all count the minutes until we can leave.
4. Make notes on your smartphones: perhaps you take turns to make sure the naysayers see these are proper meetings where decisions get made and actions happen as a result.
5. Set an example: at first you'll be the 'crazy walking meeting person' but after a while you'll have some disciples. Ride out the storm, be the pioneer – you will look better for it and people will want to feel and look like you do.
And the next step; running meetings.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010