Why you should hold your next meeting outdoors
8 May 2018
Would you like to improve your short-term memory and boost your energy levels at work? Host your next meeting outside.
Capita Travel and Events’ Gail Bamforth has long been an advocate of outdoor meetings. Whether it’s an impromptu catch-up or an annual appraisal with a member of her team, she will suggest holding the meeting outside. “There are so many benefits,” she explains. “Outdoor meetings give you the chance to stretch your legs and get some fresh air, and they reinvigorate you – we just need to embrace the British weather!”
As Gail says, there’s a wealth of benefits associated with spending time outdoors. Let’s take a look.
Walking makes us more creative
Research by professors at Stanford University in California found that walking (either on a treadmill or outside) boosts creative thinking and opens up “the free flow of ideas”. Gail agrees with the study’s conclusions: “You are more creative and productive in your thought processes and not hampered by your surroundings when walking outdoors. My team say that they enjoy my undivided attention, and vice versa, as we are not distracted by a phone ringing or the screen in front of us. Our ideas seem to be much better and we arrive at solutions much more quickly too.”
Being outdoors boosts our energy levels
Gail says that she always feels much “brighter” after being outside – and she is not alone. A series of studies by the University of Rochester in New York showed that being outside in nature for just 20 minutes was enough to significantly lift people’s vitality levels. Academics also said that 90% of people felt “more alive” and reported improved energy levels when taking part in physical activities outside.
Nature relieves stress and anxiety
Doctors have long been aware of a positive link between nature and wellbeing. In 2014, Seattle-based environmental psychologist Judith Heerwagen told The Huffington Post: "Just looking at a garden or trees or going for a walk, even if it's in your own neighbourhood, reduces stress … there's something about being in a natural setting that shows clear evidence of stress reduction, including physiological evidence like lower heart rate." Her stance has now been confirmed by a recent study, featured on the BBC, which suggests that the mental health benefits of going for a walk can last for up to seven hours.
Personal conversations are easier
Another benefit that Gail has noticed is that her team find it easier to have personal conversations with her. “If they are talking about their future plans or ambitions, they are much more comfortable – sitting directly across a table from someone can be quite awkward,” she says. “I have found that they open up much more.”
Walking outside improves our memories
Finally, research by the University of Michigan in the US studied the cognitive benefits of walking outdoors and discovered that people’s memory and attention spans improved by a huge 20% after spending an hour outside. This is backed up by another study from Stanford University, which showed that walking in nature increased people’s working memory performance.
There is little doubt about the benefits of being outdoors, but what about the practicalities?
Gail says that if you need to use a computer, schedule this in at the beginning or the end of the meeting. She adds that pre-planning is essential: “You need to think about what you want to achieve and the key points you want to cover. If I have a meeting with my financial controller, she’ll always take a note with bullet points of the topics she wants to cover. If anything does need to be documented, do it as soon as you return to the office.”
So the next time you are arranging a meeting, why not take it outdoors?
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