A growing body of evidence demonstrates the clear physical and psychological benefits that spending time in the natural world has for human wellbeing. From improved memory, concentration, and happiness, to reduced crime and antisocial behaviour, the advantages are countless, and not just for our personal lives.
When it comes to organisational settings, experiences in the natural world can be equally powerful – deepening insight, opening up safe spaces for difficult conversations, and offering new pathways and approaches.
Here are seven ideas for incorporating walking into your working and learning experiences.
Solo walk: Encouraging people to go for a walk during a learning input – either as a break or integrated into the learning – helps them refresh, reflect and re-energise. Ask participants to let their minds wonder as they wander, working through recent developments, generating new neural pathways, and pursuing creative ideas.
Mindful walking: Mindful walking is not about exercise; it’s about slowing down. It’s about deepening the quality of our attention to the present moment – slowly and purposefully feeling each footfall, being aware of our contact with the ground, noticing our breath and what’s going on around us. Walking in this way can be an effective way to take stock of a situation and focus on what’s important.
Walking meetings: Replacing office meetings with walking ones has increased in popularity over recent years, even when these are done remotely, with each participant walking in a different place. Leaving the comfort of our office chairs and moving around invites new frames of mind and an opportunity to connect with each other. These meetings don’t have to involve a sweaty hike to be effective; an amble around the block or a nearby park can be a gentle and equally satisfactory alternative to static conversations.
Collective ‘ramble’: Team building and networking events don’t have to be extravagant. One of the most memorable experiences I had as a participant was going for a group ‘ramble’ in the countryside: soaking up the scenery, stopping and regrouping, and then moving on into new subsets and conversations. It lent a naturalness to our dialogue, and the serenity of our surroundings encouraged openness in a way that a stuffy conference room never could.
Coaching conversation: There is also huge value in incorporating a walk into a coaching conversation, particularly if the coachee is talking about striving for work-life balance, managing stress, or being more creative. Having these conversations whilst walking helps them go from talking about it to actually experiencing it.
Side-by-side stroll: Having difficult or sensitive discussions can be much easier when walking side-by-side. When we face in the same direction, and walk towards a common destination, a step change can occur. This slightly different positioning helps people feel more comfortable to speak their mind or broach uncomfortable topics than they would in a static, face-to-face setting.
How have you incorporated a walk into recent work or learning experiences? What changed for you?