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Personal Finance

How walking speed impacts firm profits

Walking speed
Walking speed should be part of every company’s culture, and it begins with the leadership. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Did you know that people who walk fast and strategically plan their time are very productive? They also work fast, do not procrastinate nor waste time on unnecessary meetings, multitasking, social media, television, shopping and other obsessions. This kind of a person understands the value of time, their greatest motivation being the goals they plan to achieve within a set period of time.

Certainly, there is a strong connection between fleetness of foot and fatness of wallet in the history of speed of walking in cities. As one possible explanation for the relationship between city size and foot speed, economic factors play a key role. In a report of their 1989 research, geographers D. Jim Walmsley and Gareth Lewis noted that when a city grows larger, wage rate and cost of living increase, and with that the value of a resident's time. As a result, the two noted that economising on time becomes more urgent and life becomes more hurried and harried.

Consequently, countries with a high walking speed are more likely to have healthier economies and emphasis on self-excellence. A 1999 survey that sought to establish the correlation between walking speed and economic productivity in 31 countries ranked Switzerland as first, Ireland number two, Japan number four and Kenya number 22. Indonesia and Mexico picked the last slots. In the 2014 World Bank ranking of the world’s richest countries based on their Gross Domestic Product, Japan, Mexico and Indonesia appear among the top 50, with Japan in position three.

In Nairobi, one of the busiest and highly populated cities in Kenya, a big percentage of pedestrians walk fast during peak work reporting hours. Walking speed reduces as the day progresses and fewer walk fast when heading home in the evening.

Employees who walk fast tend to be more time conscious, alert, healthier, sharp and influential. They also tend to get faster attention. It has also been observed that an employee’s walking speed increases following a promotion, an indication of a direct relationship between employee motivation and walking speed.

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Ultimately, walking fast has immense benefits. Here’s an example. If it can take you 20 minutes to walk a distance that a normal person spends 30 minutes covering, you save 10 minutes. That means you have learnt the shortcuts and become more efficient. However, having a plan on how you want to spend the 10 minutes saved is crucial. Winning habits that rarely get slotted in our daily busy schedules such as reading a book, taking an online course or meditation will be done easily using this spare time. Evaluate the hours in your days, and see if there’s a lot of time wasted when walking that you could save and use to achieve some overlooked yet important activities in your daily schedule.

When you work by production, time is money. Take the example of John who works in a mango farm and gets paid by productivity. He gets money for each filled basket that is taken to the truck. Now, if the truck is far, and it takes him 5 minutes to get there, that’s a lot of wasted time. If we count going to and coming back, that’s 10 minutes that John is not getting paid for. Multiply that by at least 10 times during the day and there was a full hour and 30 minutes lost! If John would reduce the time it takes to reach the truck to 3 minutes, he would have another extra 30 minutes that other people don’t have. At the end of the exercise, John will earn more money, his brain and physical health will also function better. As a result of this motivation, John could draw strategies that will make him a more efficient, better and well paid person at work.

Companies that recognise the value of walking speed and time management at work have gone to the extent of putting alarms and flashing lights on walk ways to sense when employees reduce the walking speed. In other companies, there are messages on walkways aimed at encouraging employees to walk faster. Right from the hiring process, speed-conscious companies will look at, for example, the speed at which candidates walk from the waiting room to the interview room. A comparison between the speed at which employees arrive at the office in relation to the speed at which they leave the office is a good statistic that a company should also take note of.

Walking speed should be part of every company’s culture, and it begins with the leadership. If a company has senior managers who walk slowly, the whole organisation slows down. Very simple but consistent employee motivation interventions can influence employee walking speeds in organisations and yield resultant benefits including reduction in operating costs, more sales and better time management. Caution should, however, be taken to ensure that safety requirements are not compromised.

This is a great strategy that can lead to improved productivity. Instead of planning for an increase in headcount, a company should just plan for an increase in walking speed. A 10 per cent increase in walking speed could yield the same result as a 10 per cent increase in headcount.

The writer is Director of Human Resources at Isuzu East Africa and a PhD student at University of Nairobi.

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