WorkWalks, the new meeting places, are here to stay

As of next week you'll have new options when it comes to booking a location for a meeting. As well as our regular meeting rooms, you can choose one of seven walking routes. They start from different buildings and offer various distances. The aim is to get employees and students out into the fresh air while they are at work, to have them leave their desks more often. Following a successful pilot back in 2018, this project is now here to stay on the campus.

“Shall we walk the 30-minute route?” Erwin Kerkhof (in the middle on the main photo), sustainability advisor at Real Estate, is standing just inside the entrance to Atlas, next to a large blue-and-yellow cube signposting various walking routes on the campus. The cube is new. It is part of the WorkWalk initiative, which provides an alternative to the meeting room. In 2018, during the pilot, employees and students had the chance to hold a meeting or discussion in the fresh air while following a dotted blue lines across the campus. Now the project has been adopted permanently and the blue dots have made way for signposts to routes of ten, twenty, thirty or forty minutes. The seven different starting points can be booked as a ‘meeting room’ in Outlook.

But how do you persuade people to leave their desk or meeting table for a walk in the fresh air? This is something that Industrial Design PhD candidate Ida Damen has researched. “The research revealed that there are three factors that help get people walking,” explains Kerkhof. “Firstly, to avoid any confusion, the meeting points must be indoors. Then, these places have to be bookable via Outlook. And it is important that people know in advance how long a route takes, so that once they have set off they don't have to think about the time.”

Not just bollards

All three points have been addressed in the WorkWalks initiative, which has now been adopted permanently. This has been possible with a budget drawn from NPO funds that was made available to the Vitality core team, and a financial contribution made by Real Estate. “I'm really pleased it's all come together. The project may seem modest but there's a whole lot more to it than just the bollards. The conditions that apply to the campus, for instance, had to be considered, and the Quality Commission had to give its approval. It takes a lot of people to make sure a project like this succeeds.”

The circular routes can now be followed from their starting points at Vertigo, Atlas, MetaForum, Gemini, Auditorium, Flux and Neuron. Before setting off, walkers can pick up a tea and coffee nearby, and there are places to sit down for a moment beforehand and afterwards. Lockers are available in the buildings, handy for walkers wanting to leave their gear somewhere before setting off. The various routes are numbered and blue signposts outside these buildings indicate which route starts where. “There are thirty signposts and we thought long and hard about the right places to site them, so that they are easy to follow from both directions.”

Giving a helping hand

On a path running beside the Dommel, two people are walking towards us. Are they doing the route, too? “I think so,” says Kerkhof, laughing. “They looked like they were on a work walk. But inside these buildings here there are plenty of people who aren't.” He has no intention of dragging them outdoors, Kerkhof assures me. “Personally, I dislike being forced to do anything.” He hopes to get students and employees out of their buildings mainly by making WorkWalks as accessible as possible for them. But do people really need routes and signposts when they can simply walk around on campus by themselves? “Yes, they can do that, but they aren't. So we're giving them a helping hand by making it a challenge.”

Atlas is back in sight and Kerkhof is keen to know how long the walk has taken us. Exactly half an hour. “I'm really pleased that the length of the route is spot on. It means you can be sure you'll be back after 30 minutes.”

WorkWalks can be booked via Outlook, in the same way that you'd book a meeting room. Choose the WorkWalk option under 'location' and then select a length and starting point.

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