· Features

The power of walking in the workplace

There are numerous ways walking is beneficial for both the employer and the employee

In today’s fast-paced world of work shortcuts are everywhere you look. Colleagues send emails instead of walking to each other’s desks, and the al desko lunch has regrettably become commonplace. Many adults spend up to 60% of their waking hours at work, reducing the time available to exercise and stay healthy – and this feeds directly into workplace performance and morale.

Savvy business leaders should recognise the numerous ways walking is beneficial for both the employer and the employee. The summer months and the recent introduction of the government’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, which aims to make cycling and walking a natural travel choice by 2040, provide the perfect opportunity for decision makers to start embracing walking schemes that get employees into the great outdoors.

Champion the walking meeting

Many game-changing decisions have been made by walking, including Theresa May’s to call a snap election. I myself decided on a major career shift during a long walk. Walking in the workplace is something to be championed because of the role it plays in helping employees make decisions in a timely and more enjoyable manner.

British people sit for 8.9 hours on an average day. Businesses should encourage employees to move away from their desks and get outside into nature to free up headspace, inspire creativity, and ease feelings of stress. This feeds directly into group energy, which is so important for helping businesses come to important decisions. The walking meeting is a collaborative process so business leaders need to make a personal commitment in encouraging employees to walk; you’re in this together.

Encourage a healthier and happier workforce

Workplaces that adapt their culture to encourage cycling and walking promote happier and healthier staff. Employers must think seriously about their responsibility for their employees’ health and can start doing so with walking – a simple and accessible form of exercise that often gets left behind in this digital age. Twenty-five per cent of British adults walk for less than nine minutes a day, so walking schemes should be about making walking easier and more attractive for everyone.

We’re on the back foot when it comes to preventative healthcare. Individuals need encouragement to be mindful of their lifestyles and prevent ill health through reasonable exercise. Almost everybody can walk and it’s important to encourage them to do more. As a business leader you need to believe in the power of walking and convince others that it will be good for the organisation and themselves.

Facilitate flexible walking

Employers need to think carefully about how they can bring the power back to the pedestrian and encourage employees to make walking a natural part of their daily schedule. A key solution is through walking children to school, which can be as beneficial for the parent as it is for the child. The government’s new Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy aims to see 55% of children walking to primary school by 2025 – and we hope to see an increase in parents walking with their children.

Parents of school children are often at the age when their long-term health is defined largely by their activity levels. Business leaders must recognise that the health and wellbeing of their employees is critical to future business successes. As such, flexibility around walking during the day should be encouraged.

The wonders of walking

Walking around you see and discover so much more. The UK’s major cities have their challenges for pedestrians but still have much to offer. Perceptive business leaders should recognise that walking can play a key role in maintaining a happy, healthy and collaborative workforce, which in turn drives benefits for the business. It’s time we recognised walking as a key factor in our quality of life, and the importance of schemes that make this accessible, achievable and enjoyable for everyone.

Archie Robertson is chair of Living Streets