Meeting rooms aren’t all bad: they’re tidy, formal, and ideally spacious. More abstractly, they’re conducive to productive, efficient discussion. Something about setting foot in a meeting room makes you feel like you’re about to get down to business.

But are you really about to get down to business? In many cases, especially in startups, formal business meetings simply aren’t necessary. Sometimes you just need to show coworkers a new design you’re working on, or casually chat about a new marketing tactic. If that’s the case, the stiff atmosphere of a meeting room can slow you down. Worse yet, it can intimidate some workers into holding back their opinions, lest they say something inappropriate. Formal meetings add a lot of stress for no good reason.

One alternative is to just go for a walk. The main goal of a meeting is to talk; unless you have physical paperwork to go through, you might as well talk while strolling through the park. If anything, having a casual chat with your coworkers might encourage better communication than a meeting room would. It’s easier to be spontaneous and creative when you’re not in a formal business setting, and you’re more likely to hear people’s honest criticism.

Crucially, outdoor meetings can improve your work/life balance, according to Share Your Office. It’s a tried-and-true method of reducing stress. Taking a walk and buying a snack is something you might’ve done by yourself anyway, and it helps to incorporate these daily activities into your work as much as possible. It ties into the “grey” notion that work and life shouldn’t be 100% separate. Reserve the meeting room for when you really need it, and meet in more natural spaces whenever you can.

So outdoor meetings can make you happier, but can they make you more productive? In the end, the goal of a meeting is to communicate, and the meeting should end once you’ve communicated what you needed to. From that perspective, casual outdoor meetings that aren’t bogged down by formality can legitimately be more efficient. The quicker you and your colleagues get to the point, the quicker you can get back to work (or resume your lunch break).

The downside to this method is that it makes it easier to get sidetracked. Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution to this problem—just like with traditional meetings, it’s easy for discussion to veer off topic. It takes a conscious effort to be concise. On the bright side, extra meeting time spent in the meeting room is unpleasant for everyone, whereas a meandering discussion and a more relaxed environment might actually be fun. You’d be mixing work with your leisure time, but that’s not all bad.
No matter what, it takes focus and preparation to run a successful meeting without wasting time. But at worst, informal outdoor meetings are just a bit too fun—and at best, they’re more productive and less stressful than their formal counterparts. Making outdoor meetings a habit is sure to make everyone dread them just a little.

You can connect with Stefan on Share Your Office

Stefan Bhagwandin

Stefan is a content writer and marketer at Share Your Office. He follows startup culture, media, and technology.

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