Can Virtual Coworkers Unplug Together? Walking Meetings and Working from Home.

Last month, two of the creative forces behind Reify, Sarah Kennedy and Vanessa Smith scheduled a “Walk and Talk”—an hour-long unplug session to help them regroup and recharge.

That might not sound too remarkable; after all, more and more teams are using walking meetings to recharge and brainstorm. (There’s even a TED talk about it!)

So what makes their walk and talk unique?

Well, Vanessa and Sarah live about four states away from each other.

Thanks to a bit of planning, their cell phones, and some good weather, Sarah and Vanessa were able to share a walk session that bridged the distance from North Carolina to Michigan. The recharge and team-building benefits were so great, they already scheduled their next one.

Why a Walking Meeting?

As the two creative forces behind Reify, Vanessa and Sarah spend their time building, designing, updating—bringing our team’s ideas to life. Reify works with clients across the country, and because we focus on cutting-edge web solutions, Vanessa and Sarah are often being challenged to create something new or different for eLearning, web, and design projects.

And of course—they spend their time at the computer.

It was last month when these two coworkers thought of a way to work together on recharging their creativity and leaving their screens—a walking work break. When the “Walk and Talk” meeting popped up in their calendars, they laced up their sneakers, grabbed some dog leashes, and hit the trail.

Sarah was walking in Michigan, Vanessa was walking in North Carolina, but thanks to their phone conversation, it felt like they were on the same trail.

“We spent the first two minutes checking in with each other about work, asking about each other’s day,” said Sarah Kennedy. “But then after that, we had plenty of other things to talk about to take a break from work.”

According to Sarah and Vanessa, there are a ton of benefits:

  • Give your eyes a screen break
  • Draw some inspiration from nature
  • Get to know your coworkers better
  • Helps with a daily exercise goal
  • Recharge with fresh air

Walking Meetings: Good for Business

Walking meetings can be great for recharging and stepping away from work, but they’re can also be a helpful strategy for stepping into new solutions and mindsets. Steve Jobs is said to have requested walking meetings with his employees and also people outside the company, like Mark Zuckerberg.

Harvard Business Review also recently wrote about walking meetings, the physical and mental benefits, and how professionals can create successful walking meeting environments. According to Inc. Magazine, walking meetings can also help to increase collaboration and to make an organization feel more “flat”, with less hierarchy and fewer silos.

Tips for a Successful “Virtual” Walking Meeting

After their first meeting, Sarah and Vanessa made a list of things that are helpful:

  1. Bring water
    Since you’re walking and talking, you may get dehydrated faster than if you were just walking.
  2. Headsets are a plus
    If you’re walking with a distant coworker, like Sarah and Vanessa, then bring headsets so you don’t have to hold your phone.
  3. Track progress with an app
    It can be nice to track your steps, so consider a walk app like MapMyRun; there’s also the more fun game-based Walkr (where steps help your avatar to recharge for space exploration).
  4. Secure your pets
    If you’re bringing a pet or two like Sarah does, make sure you keep them secure; bring them their own water and ensure they have a good leash. (Sarah recommends the Halti training lead leash.)
  5. Talk work—or don’t
    You may find that using a walk-meeting strategy can help you brainstorm through a tough work problem, but these “meetings” can also be planned breaks just to help you get to know your coworker. So sometimes, consider skipping the work topic altogether! (You could even Google “get to know you questions” for fun talking points, if you want ideas for how to get to know your coworkers better.)

Get Started!

Sarah and Vanessa already have their next walk-and-talk on the calendar. We hope this post has motivated you to consider trying it. Now, go lace up!

This post was also published on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/can-virtual-coworkers-unplug-together-walking-meetings-vanessa-smith/.

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