How Being Active at Work Leads to Better Collaboration
A story on NPR about treadmill desks and activity in the office described some of the health benefits of office arrangements other than the traditional sit-down desk. It also got me thinking about how approaches to being active at work can lead to better collaboration.
During the interview, Dr. James Levine mentioned walk-and-talk meetings as a way to have more effective gatherings. Standup meetings, a staple of agile teams, have a similar benefit. Standing up during a meeting encourages shorter, more engaged interactions.
Walk-and-talk meetings serve a different purpose than standup meetings or any technical meeting where you need to, for example, use a whiteboard. They function as another useful item in your toolbox to encourage a focus on “individuals and iterations,” a stated value in the Agile Manifesto.
The interview also mentioned the benefits of simply walking over to talk to someone rather than sending an email or an instant message. In addition to encouraging activity, it encourages collaboration, although some issues are better discussed in email or another text form, especially when there are complex details.
As distance can lead to longer walks, it can also reduce collaboration. Particularly for the initial phases of a discussion, a higher bandwidth medium, such as in-person meetings, can keep conversation options open.
Not every kind of work lends itself to an active posture. Some creative and complicated tasks require a degree of focus that make treadmill desks not a suitable solution for all-day use. On the other hand, many of us have had experiences where distractions can help us solve problems, so it might be best to take a walk when presented with a frustrating situation.
It’s nice to think that there is synergy to be had in these practices. If being active can improve collaboration, why not be active? After all, studies have shown that a healthy team is a productive one.
Does your team work in a way that lends itself to being active? Has this come up in team retrospectives? What solutions has your team come up with?