In the era of remote and hybrid work, engaging virtual sessions with your team are a critical way to keep everyone connected.
In fact, Bankrate reports that 30% of workers say work-life benefits (such as the ability to work from home) are the most important factor to them in a job! With team members working across locations and time zones, virtual team lunches can bring everyone together and build connection. Together, your team can foster camaraderie, improve communication, and boost team morale.
In this post, you’ll learn all about how to plan an engaging virtual team lunch – including:
- The importance of virtual team building
- What is a “Lunch and Learn?”
- Step-by-step instructions for how to plan a fun team virtual lunch
- Virtual lunch ideas, topics, and themes
- Key elements of a successful virtual lunch
- Engaging virtual programs for teams on Zoom and other platforms
- Frequently asked questions about lunch and learns
The Importance of Virtual Team Building
Remote work can be a beautiful thing. That’s because it frees workers from their daily commute, can have beneficial effects for the environment, allows for more flexibility and work-life balance, and a slew of other benefits.
However, like anything, remote work can also come with drawbacks. Some employees might experience feelings of isolation, disconnection, and a lack of collaboration. Extroverts and social butterflies may feel particularly challenged in work from home roles.
Virtual team building activities create an intentional way for everyone to come together over food. Additionally, the possibilities are endless! You could plan a fun happy hour video call, an expert panel discussion, a virtual field trip, an at-home game night, a family activity, a lunch and learn session, or something else! Virtual team building sessions provide an opportunity for employees to communicate and collaborate with each other, have fun, and build a sense of community together.
What is a “Lunch and Learn”?
A “lunch & learn” is a structured form of business meeting where professionals learn together during their lunch break. Lunch and learn topics can range from introducing new ideas to sharing company updates, training on specific topics, and more.
Lunch and learns are a great way to impart new knowledge, encourage peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, and engage employees. As a result, you may find your employees are communicating more seamlessly after a virtual team building experience.
With a Stanford University report finding that around 30% of employees work from home, many corporate lunch and learns have turned into video conferencing sessions.
While you may face some challenges when coordinating across time zones, schedules, and departments, this post will equip you with step-by-step instructions to plan a successful group lunch, from start to finish!
How to Plan a Virtual Group Lunch
With some thoughtful planning, you can ensure that your virtual team lunch is fun, engaging, and educational for all involved. Resist the urge to simply schedule a meeting and let conversation flow. Instead, take the time to choose the right virtual platform, create an engaging agenda, and make inclusive lunch arrangements. Let’s explore how!
1. Setting Up the Virtual Platform
You’re probably familiar with many of the popular video conferencing platforms. For instance: you can meet on Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and others. If you’ve been using the same system for a while, it may be worth evaluating if that system still serves your team’s needs.
While technology is always changing, there are a few items to always keep in mind. These include: ease of use, video and audio quality, mobile interface, interactive features such as reactions and polls, number of participants the platform supports, and breakout room functionality.
2. Planning the Agenda
While casual lunches are more of a free flow, a virtual group lunch and learn is intended to be structured. Planning an agenda can help ensure everyone shows up with the right expectations. Additionally, an agenda can help keep the timing on track, avoiding spillover into afternoon projects and meetings.
A lunch & learn agenda for a 1-hour session on Zoom might include:
- 5 minutes: Introduce topic, review agenda, and share company updates
- 10 minutes: Icebreaker games and activities
- 30 minutes: Learning session / discussion
- 10 minutes: Q&A
- 5 Minutes: Closing thoughts and follow-up instructions, thank yous
Remember to share a survey after the session to gather everyone’s thoughts and ideas for next time!
3. Ordering Lunch
When hosting a lunch and learn, be sure to make arrangements ahead of time for the lunch!
There are several options to consider. For instance, you can have food delivered to each team member’s home. Alternatively, provide team members a budget to order their own food, or a gift card from UberEats or another meal delivery service.
If your team’s budget is limited, you can encourage brown-bagged meals. No matter what you choose, be sure to tell employees ahead of time, so they understand what to expect.
If providing food, be sure to consider everyone’s dietary restrictions and differing time zones. After all, breakfast in San Francisco is lunch in New York – and could be after midnight in Melbourne! When in doubt, ask team members directly what they prefer, whether via email or a survey tool such as SurveyMonkey or Google Forms.
Lunch and Learn Ideas for Your Team
When planning a lunch and learn, variety and creativity are important parts of the process. By choosing themes and formats that pique team members’ interests, you can set the stage for a session everyone will look forward to!
One option is to organize your virtual team lunch session around specific topics relevant to your team or industry. For instance, you might host an educational series on new technology trends, project management techniques, or other industry-related news and updates.
Find over 50 unique, educational, and fun lunch and learn ideas in our blog post devoted to this topic!
If the goal is to help team members build their presentation skills, allow employees to take turns presenting a skill they excel at.
This might include a job-based skill – or, it could be a hobby outside of work! Either way, team members will learn together as the presenter builds their confidence and executive presence.
Guest Speaker Sessions
Inviting guest speakers can be a great way to liven up your lunch and learns. Consider hosting industry experts or leaders within the company to provide insights and share their experiences. Remember, an external perspective can often capture team members’ attention and share insights you might never have considered!
Interactive workshops allow team members to learn by doing – perfect for kinesthetic learners who absorb knowledge through tactile experiences.
For instance, walk everyone through a new software tool together as they follow along on their own computers. Or, consider a group craft or building project with “in real life” elements to put together. You can even make a recipe together and explore new foods!
Pro tip: Unexpected Virtual Tours‘ team building sessions offer an optional Treat Box add-on shipped directly to your team members, adding a fun tangible element to virtual sessions.
Key Elements of a Successful Virtual Team Lunch
In short, a successful virtual lunch is one that is intentionally planned, engaging, and memorable. Be sure to think of your team members and their preferences when selecting the time, topic, meal choices, and other elements. Above all, this is an opportunity for team members to enjoy quality time in each other’s company, whether through games, guided conversations, or other activities.
Ensuring Participation and Engagement
To ensure participants are engaged during the session, it can be helpful to share clear expectations and get attendees excited. Let folks know if they’re going to be expected to have their cameras on. Additionally, you can share pre-meeting materials (speaker bios, topic details, etc.) to get everyone’s wheels turning ahead of time.
During the call, utilize breakout rooms, chat features, polls, and more to keep the session interesting and participatory. You can also encourage people to come off “Mute” and chime in if they have something to share!
Coordinating Across Different Time Zones
When team members are spread across different time zones, it can be hard to find a good time that works for everyone. Some potential solutions include rotating the time of the session, so that no one is consistently stuck with a less-than-ideal time of day. Another option is to poll employees to find out what they prefer. Additionally, you can record the session for self-paced viewing.
Accommodating Dietary Restrictions and Preferences
When it comes to dietary restrictions, never assume what your employees will and won’t eat! Many people have food limitations – whether due to dietary styles, allergies, medically-related diets, religious dietary needs, food preferences, and more.
To simplify your lunch and learn, you can provide employees a stipend or gift card to order their own food of choice. Or, if providing a group meal, ensure it includes plenty of diverse and inclusive meal options to choose from.
Balancing Learning and Socializing
When hosting your lunch and learn, be sure to include some time for socialization – while also ensuring you’ve set aside enough time for the topic at hand.
We recommend allocating 10-15 minutes at the start of your session for socializing and icebreakers, then pivoting into the learning portion of your session.
Leveraging Our Services for Your Virtual Team Lunch
The best virtual team lunch is one you don’t have to plan! Across the globe, teams like Google, TripAdvisor, and Cardlytics trust Unexpected Virtual Tours with their virtual team building experiences.
Perfect for lunch and learn meetings, our lineup of programs generally last around an hour and explore fascinating topics with live expert guides. For instance: explore the history of music, delve into street art, take a virtual European vacation, design a golf course, and choose from a wide variety of DEI training topics.
Sessions include engaging, interactive elements to spark conversations and learning – and optional add-on treat boxes delivered to your team! To learn more, explore our programs, and connect with us to book your session!
Frequently Asked Questions
How can we ensure that the team lunch doesn’t just become another regular meeting?
We recommend assigning one person (this might be you!) to share the meeting agenda at the start of your lunch and learn. Then, you can redirect the team as needed throughout the session, referencing the agenda. A tactful way to say this can be, “In order to respect everyone’s time, let’s get back to our agenda and save this conversation for after the meeting! I’m excited to hear more later.”
If needed, employees can stay on the call after the conclusion of the session to discuss project updates or other daily workflow needs.
How often should we organize ‘Lunch & Learn’ sessions?
While exact timing can vary, we recommend hosting a monthly or every-other-month lunch and learn.
That way, team members who miss a session only have to wait a month or two to reconnect with colleagues over lunch and deepen their knowledge. Additionally, keeping lunch and learns on a predictable basis can help everyone plan and prepare ahead of time.
Above all, aim for a schedule that encourages ongoing knowledge-sharing, without overwhelming employees’ calendars.
What should be the ideal duration for a ‘Lunch & Learn’ session?
The ideal timing for a lunch and learn typically ranges from around 45 minutes to one hour. This timing allows for brief introductions and icebreakers, as well as short closing remarks and action items, in addition to the content of your session.
Remember, keeping the session concise and engaging helps everyone make the most of this time together – and encourages participants to return next time!
How can we ensure that our virtual lunch session caters to different learning styles within the team?
Incorporate different content formats, games, activities, and topics to keep workers with different learning styles and preferences engaged!
For instance, incorporate slides or videos for visual learners. Additionally, try hands-on polls, quizzes, and games for participatory learners. Auditory learners will love hearing from guest lecturers and panels. Those who learn by taking notes may enjoy sharing insights in the chat or during a writing exercise.
You can also provide materials such as handouts, recommendations for podcasts and books for deeper learning, and other opportunities for team members to deepen their knowledge in their own way.
Can team lunch sessions be used for cross-departmental interaction and learning?
Absolutely! Virtual team lunch sessions are fantastic opportunities for cross-departmental interaction and learning. By bringing everyone together for dialogue and a meal, you’ll create space for employees to connect authentically and form connections.
As a result, teams can strengthen their trust with each other, problem-solving skills and collaboration, and feelings of belonging at work.
The Next Course: Taking Your Virtual Team Lunches Forward
Now that we’ve walked through how to plan a virtual team lunch, you’re equipped to create a meaningful and memorable experience for your team!
If you’d rather skip the DIY route and book a turnkey virtual lunch and learn session (along with other team building programs, DEI training, and more), browse sessions from Unexpected Virtual Tours!
Our happy corporate clients include UPS, The Home Depot, Coca-Cola and more. Join us to see why we have a 5-star Google rating with nearly 1,500 reviews!