I read a recent article in a trade magazine which was about options for driving down travel expenses for knowledge workers.
One section was on the topic of commuting to work or to meetings by foot. This post is the result of my thinking on the subject.
What are the benefits of commuting on foot?
There are some obvious benefits to walking for work:
- It’s green – reduces greenhouse gases
- it has physical and mental health benefits – works you body and allows time to think
- it is cheap – no more £0.50/mile expenses to sign off!
There are some less obvious benefits too:
- it takes longer than the equivalent drive (depending on traffic) – this gives you some valuable time to think
- it can offer an opportunity to discuss projects with any co-walker you may have commandeered
- it allows you to arrive at work / meetings alert and ready for action
- it provides time for reflection after a meeting or day at work
Is it always possible to commute on foot?
In truth there will be times when it is not an option but if you commit to doing it you might be surprised how seldom walking is not possible.
I’m lucky enough to be in the position where my major client is within a 15 minute walk of my office. But several of the sites we are working on are not.
When we have a site based meeting I set off in the car in good time (often taking the client with me) and we park about half a mile to three quarters of a mile away from the site (where we can get free parking) and we walk the last bit.
This is a great way to get the bulk of the travelling done quickly but then get the benefits of walking and talking the last bit before the meeting starts.
It is amazing how often we can discuss and agree a point of view on agenda items, work out tactics and the like as we walk that last half mile.
A great example of the walking commute can be seen here in my home city in the legal quarter. All through business hours the solicitors can been seen walking between each others offices, some times alone, often in pairs or small groups and always ‘switched on’ and getting on with the business of doing their business.
“But you’re wasting time, adding 30 minutes to the duration of every meeting”
If you are unlucky enough to have a boss or co-workers who cannot see the benefit of walking on company time then give them a few points to consider:
- as knowledge workers we can always ‘work as we walk’. Not everything we are paid for is a ‘thing’, we don’t just ‘do’, we think. There is no better way to find some thinking time during the work day than to get out of the office for 15 minutes and get away from the phone, email and your colleagues
- your performance at work or in a meeting will be enhanced by the thinking time you gained and the buzz from having done 15 minutes of low level exercise
- it provides time to reflect after work or a meeting
Also – is it really wasting time? If the journey on foot will only take 15 minutes then I ALWAYS walk. By the time I have rung forward to ensure a parking space will be available, walked to the car, driven a mile, parked, got your stuff from the boot etc. I could have walked there and ordered my coffee.
…to bring along a capture device. I have some of my most insightful thoughts while I’m ‘off’ and walking is one of those situations where I need to capture a thought quickly and without any friction.
Always carry an appropriate capture device. For me this is a small notebook or a voice recorder on my phone. Here are a few alternative capture devices:
- notebook and pen
- index cards and pen
- voice recorder app on your phone
- phone app such as toodledo or OmniFocus
- dictaphone (old school!)
- voicemail – you can call your own answer service
Your memory is NOT a capture device
- give your feet and your brain a chance to play their part in your work day
- timetable enough time around your meetings to allow you to consider walking all or some of the way
- encourage your reports to do the same
For additional credit why not walk home from time to time? I live four miles from my office but three or four times per month I will choose to walk home. It is a great way to get some serious thinking time – but make sure you have a notebook and pen with you because you will come up with some really useful stuff!