Stressed workplace? Take a walk!

The benefits of regular exercise as a stress reducing or coping activity have been documented in a wide variety of forums from medical journals, to popular self help magazines, and human resources texts.  Walking–one of the simplest, least equipment heavy exercise options–has been touted as having benefits as such exercise, as well as offering potential for socializing while undertaking, seeing the sights in many and varied environments in which it can be undertaken, and requiring little or no post-exercise cleanup.

If your library staff is stressed–whoa! Whose isn’t these days?–think about putting a simple walking program into place for employees (and that would include you).  Berkeley Public Library offers a simple and elegant model:

  • All staff are invited to participate, and any can start participating at any time (There’s no “first session” for which you needed to have shown up).
  • Steps count, not time spent stepping, and only the steps taken getting to and from work, while on a work break, or meal hour count, not whatever running around you might do outside your working life (That levels the playing field for those whose nonwork environments aren’t walk friendly).
  • Very inexpensive pedometers are available from the Human Resources staff office, but many new walkers discover that they become addicted to the counting and obtain their own, which happen to be available through many healthcare offices for a cost under $10.

But how do you create interest in getting people up and out into the neighborhood just to walk around?

  • At BPL, there’s a regular spot-that-interesting-picture-opportunity theme.  By and large, staff have cell phones and almost every modern cell phone has photo taking capacity. This week’s suggested photo op might be a mural you see while walking, next week’s could be an ironic sign.
  • Encourage staff to walk together to encourage each other–and while they encourage each other on foot, you’ll find that they come to see each other as pretty regular human beings, instead of just the job title.

There are lots of variations that are possible with such a program: you can introduce staff to social media, like Twitter, by suggesting they tweet the day’s walk or step goal; you can post the snapshots taken while folks were out walking; you can ask for route suggestions and blast email (to staff!) a customized Google map showing the route and some interesting landmarks along it so they can keep an eye out for what’s up ahead.

On the benefits side:

  • Stress reduction at the personal level
  • Stress reduction at the staff group level
  • New communication lines open across departments as walking partners discover each other
  • Better familiarity with the neighborhood around the library
  • Real opportunities to meet and say “hi” to customers when they aren’t inside the library

Oops, looks like it’s time for my afternoon walk! Be back at work in 15 minutes!