It’s quite common at Edelman to be told it will be a “walking meeting.” I’d rarely heard the term before joining three years ago, but it’s a concept I’ve come to fully embrace. From my personal experience, one of the best ways to combine a bit of exercise with business is to take it outside, literally. You’ll often see Richard Edelman leading by example in whatever city he happens to be in around the world. Instead of battling for a conference room or disturbing others in the open cubes, I often find employees going for a walk together instead. And you know what? It’s refreshing — to see and to experience. It’s a chance to get away from the computer, leave the office for a bit and just chat through ideas with a new point of view. And there’s no choice to make, really. It’s not walking or working. It’s both. A new form of multi-tasking!
On May 18, Unilever’s* Dirt is Good Campaign will be hosting Outdoor Classroom Day, a global campaign to celebrate and inspire outdoor learning and play in schools. When partnering with Unilever to create this idea, our Edelman Intelligence team led research that found 74 percent of children spend less time outdoors than the 60 minutes recommended for prison inmates. That insight alone puts the issue into stark and rather disturbing context. Globally, nine in 10 recognized that children today play outside far less than they did as a child, and further, one in 10 children said they never play outside on an average day.
As millions of children experience the benefits of learning in the outdoors, it seemed only right that OMO’s own employees and partners do the same. On the same day (Thursday, May 18) we’ll be supporting the campaign by hosting our very own Outdoor Office Day. Our 6,000+ employees around the globe are encouraged to take one of their meetings outside and take a break from the norm — a walking meeting, a park-based brainstorm or an al fresco client catch-up — as long as it’s outside. I look forward to having my own “on the go” meeting with HR leaders that day and finding inspiration in a change of scenery.
For adults, the potential benefits of getting out there are similar to those for children: improved concentration, enhanced problem solving, relaxation, team building and getting the creative juices flowing. While a great program in many ways, Outdoor Office Day is also an outstanding opportunity for our employees to embody two of our values, “the freedom to be constantly curious” and “the relentless pursuit of excellence.” I’m impressed every day when I see how constantly curious our employees are —how they engage in social issues they care about, ask smart questions and chase new opportunities to learn, and how they change their surroundings to maximize creativity and idea generation. I recall an all-staff meeting where our Ed Williams (CEO of Edelman UK) creatively and effectively framed his messages around inspirations he’d had exploring a nearby art gallery.
If you know a school that would like to get involved, please encourage them to sign-up by visiting outdoorclassroomday.com to get behind the fantastic initiative that fueled this effort in the business world. I can’t wait to see and hear about the creativity inspired by Outdoor Office Day. So far, I’ve heard about a sunrise yoga session, a lunch picnic in the park, and a team meeting as a walk through a local tourist attraction. I invite you to join us.
Nigel Miller is chief human resources officer.