Could your colleagues use an awe walk?

“I’m worried about a maternity returner and the younger members of the team who aren’t getting exposed to the informal chat around the office. You just can’t develop the same links with people and get those bits of knowledge that help you do your job when you’re working from home 100% of the time. It’s not so bad for those of us who are established in the organisation and our particular role. In fact working from home has been really good in many respects.”

If that sounds familiar, read on.

Colleagues most in need of connection

There’s no doubt that whilst we’re leading remotely we need to be proactive at helping others pick up the information they’d otherwise absorb by office osmosis. One way of doing this is to invite colleagues who are particularly at risk of missing out to have short agenda-free catch-up chats (15-20 minutes) with you.

  • New members of the team (who’d been in role < 12 months before March 2020)
  • Members of the team for whom this is only their first or second role
  • People living alone
  • Colleagues returning from maternity, shared parental leave, adoption, sickness or any other type of long leave.

Go woodland walking with colleagues – remotely or in-person

We’ve been recommending woodland walk and talk with colleagues who live within a distance you’re prepared to travel, or remotely. By remotely we mean both walking in woodland close to your respective homes and talking on the phone with headphones – because holding a phone detracts from the experience of nature and hampers the ability to gesticulate.

Make it an awe walk

The benefits of walking, and in particular in green spaces, has been known for some time but new research by Trinity College Dublin and the University of California, San Francisco[1] has illuminated the many benefits that come from deliberately setting out to be amazed by the nature around us.

Focusing on the nature you can both see can be a helpful way to break the ice, because let’s face it this isn’t the sort of thing you’d probably usually do with your colleagues.

Benefits of awe walking

In the study, participants took a weekly 15 minute awe walk for eight weeks. A control group took the same 15 minute walks but weren’t asked to pay attention to the wonder of nature. The results are very uplifting. Compared to the control group, the awe-walkers:

  • Reported increased positive emotions
  • Experienced less distress in their everyday life
  • Displayed more ‘pro-social’ emotions such as gratitude and compassion

A curious additional finding came from the analysis of selfies both groups took on their walks. Both groups were asked to take snaps at the beginning, middle and end of their walks. The awe-walkers increasingly made themselves smaller in their shots as the study went on, focusing on the scenery around them. Their smiles also grew wider. This suggests awe walking helps us get out of our own heads, which can often be a very helpful thing.

Make it a team thing

Instead of 1:1 walking why not arrange a regular team awe walk where the conversation can ebb and flow as it would in the office? It might not be practical if there is a large geographic spread in the team but it’s worth a thought.

What do you think?

If you do it, let us know how you get on. We’d love to see your photos. E-mail or find us on Twitter and Instagram @talentkeepersuk.

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[1] Study by researchers at the UC San Francisco Memory and Aging Center (MAC) and the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) – a partnership between UCSF and Trinity College Dublin to improve brain health worldwide. Published in the journal Emotion.

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