Hearts & Science's CEO: Walking meetings are my secret work weapon

Hearts & Science chief executive Frances Ralston-Good on why walking and talking is a force for good.

Being chained to a desk for hours on end leaves me feeling restless. It may be because I have a love of open spaces (I was a ski instructor in a previous life), but getting up and moving immediately engages my brain in a way that staring at a computer screen just can’t. That’s why walking meetings are my secret work weapon. 

Anyone who’s experienced life in an office can relate to the monotonous feeling of being confined to the same four walls as you try to develop agile solutions in a seemingly never-ending meeting. And although our vibrant pink office, flush with greenery, is energising, it doesn’t quite match up to the inspirational sights that lie on my doorstep at Bankside.  

A study by Stanford University found that the creative output of people increases by an average of 60% when they are walking. During my walking meetings I’ve explored everywhere from Tate Modern to St Paul’s Cathedral, Borough Market to Shakespeare’s Globe. Who could ask for a better backdrop to explore new ways of looking at questions?  

I find walking meetings are best for one-to-ones and I actively encourage everyone at Hearts to "walk and talk". Doing so is particularly good when it comes to breaking down the manager-employee barrier. Maybe it’s the rhythm of walking itself that gets us "in sync", but in my experience it means people open up and talk about topics more honestly. Walking meetings are extremely cathartic and energising, not to mention informative and fascinating. 

These meetings don’t have to be long either. The University of Essex found that the mood and sense of wellbeing of people is boosted significantly with as little as five minutes of outdoor exercise. I try to set a time limit of about 30 minutes; any longer than that and you run the risk of turning a "brain energiser" into a march. 

Hearts & Science is all about the marriage of data and human truths, and while walking meetings have led to great ideas, more vitally they break down hierarchy, open up honest conversation and build personal connections.

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