Takeover Bid

Hold on to your hats – it’s Walk to Work Week!

Walk to Work Week is organised by the charity Living Streets, ‘the national charity that stands up for pedestrians’ (see what they did there?) In principle, standing up for pedestrians is a laudable aim. However, creating better environments for us to walk in is one thing. Badgering reluctant citizens to take to the streets when a great number of them clearly prefer to keep their arses permanently parked on car seats, office chairs and sofas is quite another. Living Streets should, in my humble opinion, stop browbeating the sedentary majority into perambulating under duress and leave the streets to those of us who actually appreciate them.

As part of the Walk to Work Week campaign, Living Streets have issued an execrable ‘Event guide’ to help employers to ‘plan, promote and take part’. Where to start? How about the tagline, ‘Walking takes you places’. Yes folks, walking is no longer simply a pleasurable activity. It is now, along with pretty much everything else that governments, corporations and other achievement- and efficiency-obsessed organisations can lay their grubby mitts on, aspirational. The last bastions of contented indolence are being breached. Get off your fat backside and make something of yourself, you lazy bastard.

The odious guide soon descends into corporate-speak. Event organisers are encouraged to ‘Talk to HR and senior management to ensure event promotion buy-in’ and to ‘highlight achievements’.

We are told that, as well as aiming ‘to get people walking more to and from work’, Walk to Work Week also seeks to inspire people to walk more ‘during work and at lunchtimes’. During work? Good luck with that. At lunchtimes? ‘Whaaaat?’ expostulates the average employee, before spluttering: ‘my lunchtime is sacred. If you think I’m going to forego the opportunity to mess about on Facebook, pick up a few bargains on eBay and gaze vacantly at celebrity gossip websites in order to tramp around this shitty business park, then you’ve got another thing coming. Fuck off.’

Yet the guide cannot contain its excitement. Nagging – sorry, encouraging – employees to walk more can, the employer is informed: ‘…contribute to…your organisation’s sustainability objectives’, ‘improve productivity’, ‘reduce absences due to sick days’ and ‘promote team spirit’.

(Sorry, I should have used bullet points there. Forgive me.)

If all that’s not enough for the thrusting middle manager, then he/she will assuredly wet their pants at the revelation that ‘The week can also be run as an internal team or departmental competition’. Excuse me while I vomit into the nearest recycling bin.

I should add at this juncture that the event guide does at least incorporate ideas for using the event as an opportunity to fundraise for charity. However, the appropriation, subjugation and bastardisation of a previously untainted pleasure for this purpose is objectionable. Why not stick to the tried and tested methods of forced jollity and ritual humiliation that constitute the average workplace charity fundraising initiative and leave the gentle, unassuming and often solitary (there’s no ‘team’ in ‘I’) act of walking well alone?