Image of two people walking - via

This is sort of a follow-up to my post on the idea of the Virtual Power Hour for academic productivity during COVID. I have been talking ‘Walking Meetings” lately and have made a few observations that I wanted to share.

From my experience to date, a Walking Meeting is usually scheduled for one hour, but ends up being 1.5 hours from start to finish.

Walking meetings are beneficial for many reasons. They allow for one to disconnect from digital media where there are no pings, notifications, social media scrolling, note taking, or calendar checking.

The walking meeting also always for an organic and flexible academic dialogue that was likely more common in scholarly activities that proceeded the “publish-or-perish” productivity targets set by institutions today for career progression or time pressure caused by back-to-back meetings.

For instance, being able to explain my research to someone else outside my discipline in an informal manner on a walking meeting allows them to ask follow-up questions and an interesting exchange of ideas and disciplinary overlaps. It also allows for natural pauses and breaks in the conversation to concentrate on the surroundings or just enjoy being out of an office setting.

Walking also allows the mind to clear, physical activity can stimulate thoughts, and can even act as a substitute for getting genius ideas while in the shower!

I think walking meetings are particularly great for:

  • meeting new colleagues,
  • talking through a research or writing challenge,
  • discussing corporate/academic culture (e.g., gender, diversity, and inclusion), and
  • debating the value of attending certain conferences and whether to participate in other academic events/activities.

I think walking meetings are best suited to two people because walking three abreast on a sidewalk is inconsiderate of others who may need to pass by and one person out of the three may be excluded from the conversation due to their physical position behind or in front of the pair or the loudness of the speaker.

Another caveat I would add is that often times being “social” these days requires the purchase of a coffee, tea or other item for consumption. Suggesting a “walking meeting” over a “coffee/tea meeting” takes pressure off of the participants to feel socially obligated to purchase something to consume. Many people develop caffeine routines and perhaps the time that the walking meeting is scheduled falls outside of their “caffeine routine,” or the person does not feel the need to spend money. In addition to this, there is that awkward moment when you argue over who gets to pay and then the person who didn’t pay saying “I’ll get you next time!” like a friendly threat or a promise that another meeting shall take place (even if one isn’t actually needed).

So ask a colleague to go for a walking meeting and find out if you can come up with your next genius idea!

Have you done any walking meetings during COVID lockdown?
Did you find them more useful or less?
How do you handle the “No it’s on me” when it comes to paying for a coffee with a colleague, boss, new acquaintance, etc.?