How to Organize an Effective Virtual Lunch and Learn

Have you ever heard of a lunch and learn? Lunch and learns are voluntary meetings that take place during lunchtime, where food is provided and employees are brought together in a casual atmosphere to collaborate and learn. If you are transitioning to remote work, you may be missing these sessions that are important in fostering company culture. But don’t worry, they can be replicated in the virtual work environment with a virtual lunch and learn! Whether you have been a remote worker since the start of your career, or Covid-19 has thrust remote working upon you, we are all looking for new ways to get engaged with our company and our coworkers. While a virtual happy hour is a great way to have some informal team building after work, virtual lunch and learns can bring structure and skills building to your lunch break!

What is a Virtual Lunch and Learn?

A virtual lunch and learn is a learning experience that engages employees to gain new knowledge and skills during their lunch break, virtually. These experiences allow participants to gain new perspectives on problems, generate new ideas, work on new skills, and network with colleagues. There are many ways to plan and execute your own virtual lunch and learn but it starts with three basic things: food, people, and content.

How to Organize an Effective Virtual Lunch and Learn

1. It’s Not a Lunch and Learn Without Lunch!

The first choice that you have to make when organizing a virtual lunch and learn is how to coordinate food. The two basic options are “brown bag” or “catering”. Brown bag refers to your employees bringing their own lunch while attending the lunch and learn. For teams with small to no budgets this could be the best option, this option also avoids running into trouble with food allergies and works for virtual teams that are in remote locations. The “catering” option is great for teams with larger budgets and a workforce that is “on the grid”. There are many ways to cater lunch to your employees, you can distribute credits on apps like Uber Eats or use services that organize it all for you, like Pizzatime. Catering lunch to your team may increase your participation, but make sure that it fits the specific needs of your employees.

2. Keep it Authentic

The second factor to consider is who the event is made for and what works best for them. Starting out on your virtual lunch and learn journey, consider inviting all employees! One of the benefits of remote work is that we are no longer restricted by room capacity, we can have as many coworkers join us as we want! Then slowly as your events get refined and specialized you can invite particular departments for topics that interest them. As you begin to invite colleagues it is important to check in with them on their schedules and conflicts. Try to pick a time with the least amount of conflicts but always remember to keep these events optional. While it is always great to have lots of participation, make sure that your employees do not feel forced to be a part of the lunch and learn. Feeling pressured can detract from engagement and promote a negative culture. To boost viewership, make the virtual meeting available once it is complete and send the link to all invited guests. With a big team, it is inevitable that scheduling conflicts will arise but try to make every employee included in the learning experience.

3. Deliver Engaging Content

Lastly, you have to decide what your employees will learn! Make sure that the content of your lunch and learn is useful and relevant to its participants. One way to do this is to circulate a pre-meeting survey or begin a Slack channel with your team and ask them what they would like to learn about. Doing a virtual happy hour leaves a great opportunity to have interesting and relevant guest speakers to engage your employees without needing to be in the same location! Whether your virtual lunch and learn focuses on soft skills or hard skills it is important to establish a structure. Circulate a lunch and learn agenda before the meeting and give key takeaways after the event is over to keep your employees engaged in the material outside of lunch.

Finally, keep the conversation going on a Slack channel, email chain, or other company communication platform. Remember to keep your people at the core of the conversation and make virtual lunch and learn as accessible as you can. With this framework you can have a successful lunch and learn from everywhere! Visit us at VForce for more information on how to create content and culture for your next virtual lunch and learn.