Celebrate Telework Week: Go for a Walk (while working)!

By: Scott Bricker (@ssbricker) , America Walks (@AmericaWalks); Ted Eytan, MD, Kaiser Permanente (@tedeytan); Rae Anne Deakins, American Council on Exercise (@acefitness)

Are you planning to telework during national Telework Week March 4-8? Last year the benefits included 6,400,000 fewer miles driven and millions of dollars and minutes of time saved on commuting.

Start on Monday – The day all health breaks loose

Research has shown that Mondays are critical days for people to make changes in the way they live – 57% of people see Monday as an opportunity for a fresh start. This week offers an opportunity to make a change for your health in the way you work, based on the latest science.

Permanente Federation All Hands Walking Meeting, February 28, 2013, Oakland, CA

Integrate walking into your workday – the walking meeting

The best benefit of teleworking are the many opportunities you have to take short walks. One of our favorite ways to walk at work is the Walking Meeting.

Phone meetings are a perfect time for you to try your first walking meeting. So what is a walking meeting?

A walking meeting is basically a regular meeting, but rather than sitting in a chair, you take it on foot. You can walk for all or part of a walking meeting; oftentimes I will walk for the first portion of a call and return to my desk to take any notes needed. You can stop walking to write notes in a small notebook or on your smart phone.

When to take a walking phone meeting?

Walking and talking is perfect for a variety of phone calls, including:

  • Conference calls & webinars – how many times do you find yourself checking emails and distracted during conference calls or webinars? If you walk you will remain focused on the subject matter at hand and still be able to participate. For webinars, yes you will miss the slides, but will be able to focus in on the speaker.
  • Meet and greets – science shows that your brain is more stimulated while walking and therefore you are likely to be more creative while walking. Walking and talking can help you generate fresh ideas with new clients or partners.
  • Staff meetings – walking is a wonderful way to take staff meetings. Of course one person will need to take notes and ensure all agenda items are covered.
  • Personal calls – need to talk to the spouse? Just get up out of your chair, start walking and talking.
  • Breaks – even if you don’t need to talk on the phone, a walk around the block is a perfect way to regain energy and alertness.

TIPS – like always, have a good grasp of meeting materials prior to your walk. Time your walking meeting – typically I’ll begin and end my phone meetings at the desk and begin my walk during an agenda item that I am not on point for. Do not do walking phone meetings if you are the primary facilitator or note taker.

What you need

All you need is a mobile phone, but we strongly recommend a high quality head set to free up your hands. Being hands free also allows you to hit the mute as you are walking past your neighbor’s barking dog.

Robert Zarr, MD, conducts a walking meeting, Stanton Park, December 5, 2012, Washington, DC USA

Integrate walking into other parts of your life this week

Walk to get your food: Approximately 20% of all car trips are made to buy food. While you are saving commuting time, think about walking to the grocery store to purchase fresh food for your meals for the week.

When telework week is over, keep walking

  • After you’ve prototyped walking meetings during telework, bring them back with you to the office and see what happens
  • Explore alternatives to commuting that involve active transportation (walking, bicycling, public transit) during this week. You can deliver the same health benefits to yourself and society even when you aren’t teleworking.
  • Some organizations have a goal of 4 telework days a pay period, think of these as “active work” days – schedule them on Mondays to combine them with other health behaviors you adopt on Healthy Monday.

Learn more about integrating walking and walking meetings


Ted Eytan, MD