In today’s age of remote work, connecting with coworkers can be challenging. Replacing the proverbial “water cooler” isn’t very easy when it comes to working remotely. Enter: Virtual lunches! Sharing a Zoom lunch may sound lame, but it can be an excellent opportunity for remote team members to bond and collaborate while enjoying a meal together.
What is a Virtual Lunch?
A virtual lunch ranges from a one-on-one video meeting with a colleague to team-building events that anyone can participate in from their location. You can hold a virtual lunch with a large or small group. The idea is to create engagement among employees in a relaxed way.
What Should a Virtual Lunch Be Like?
Keep in mind the benefits when you brainstorm virtual lunch ideas for a remote team. An agenda is a good idea. Just don’t try to sneak in company business on your lunch break. Use the agenda to organize the flow of the virtual lunch and stay on track with time.
You don’t always need a plan, but a free-for-all can get annoying on a virtual meeting platform. Specifying a format for the gathering will help the event run smoothly. Some things to ask yourself if you’re organizing a virtual lunch include:
- Are participants required to talk?
- Should their microphones be muted?
- Does the meeting require any preparation?
- Will participants need any special equipment?
Do a little housekeeping at the beginning of the lunch so that everyone knows what to expect.
Virtual Lunch Ideas
Virtual Potluck or Recipe Sharing
A virtual potluck is actually a pretty legit way for remote teams to share their favorite dishes and learn about different cuisines simultaneously. Each team member can cook up something delicious and share the recipe with the group. During the lunch, team members can chat about the ingredients, cooking process, and presentation of their dishes. I’ve done this before a few years ago, and it was an extremely rewarding experience. We all prepared something that was “native” to our where we were (all different countries), and shared what it was and some of the ingredients that went in it. Super fun!
Virtual Cooking Classes or Demonstrations
A virtual cooking class or demonstration is a fun and interactive way to bond with coworkers over food. A professional chef can teach the team how to make a specific dish, or team members can take turns teaching each other their favorite recipes. This is a great way to learn new cooking skills and get to know your coworkers better. It’s also a good opportunity to take a break from work and have some fun during the lunch hour.
Virtual Game or Trivia Sessions During Lunch
Playing games or trivia during lunch is a fun way to break the ice and build camaraderie among team members. Games like virtual bingo, Pictionary, or charades can be played using online tools like Zoom or Google Meet. Trivia games can also be a great way to learn more about each other’s interests and backgrounds. This is a fun way to make the virtual lunch feel like a fun break from work.
Virtual Book Club or Movie Club Discussions During Lunch
A virtual book or movie club can be a great way to connect with coworkers who share a similar interest in literature or film. Team members can select a book or movie to read or watch, then meet during lunch to discuss their thoughts and opinions. This is a great way to get to know each other on a more personal level and share ideas and insights. This virtual lunch idea is great for teams that want to discuss more intellectual topics during their lunch break.
Virtual Wellness or Exercise Sessions During Lunch
Taking care of your physical and mental health is important, especially during stressful times. A virtual wellness or exercise session during lunch is an awesome way for remote teams to prioritize self-care and bond over healthy habits. This can include activities like yoga, meditation, or a virtual fitness class. Team members can encourage and motivate each other to make healthy choices (don’t be pushy though!), which can have a positive impact on their work and overall well-being.
Tips for Making Virtual Lunches Successful
Establish Clear Guidelines and Expectations
To make virtual lunches a hit, it’s important to establish clear guidelines and expectations. This includes setting a time for the virtual lunch, specifying the activities that will take place, and outlining the expected level of participation that particular day. By giving everyone a clear plan, they will know what to expect and can prepare accordingly. It doesn’t have to be overkill in terms of planning it, just as long as everyone understands what to expect.
Encourage Participation and Engagement
One of the main benefits of virtual lunches is their ability to foster teamwork and collaboration. However, to achieve this goal, it is important to encourage participation and engagement among team members. To do this, try to assign tasks or activities to each member of the team to ensure that everyone has a chance to participate. Also, encourage open communication and create opportunities for team members to share their thoughts and ideas. You can even do this through online polls or breakout rooms where team members can discuss activities that they want to take part in.
Create a Welcoming and Inclusive Environment
Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment ensures that all team members feel comfortable and supported during virtual lunches. Use inclusive language and ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in the conversation. It is also important to be mindful of different time zones and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to attend the virtual lunch at a time that is convenient for them. Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment can help build a sense of community among remote team members, even if they are miles (or countries!) apart.
Make Sure Technology is Functioning Smoothly
Everyone hates technical difficulties. This is especially true when employees are spending their lunch doing an activity with other coworkers. Make sure everyone has access to the appropriate tools, and that any software is working smoothly. It is also helpful to provide team members with clear instructions on how to use the technology and troubleshoot any issues that may arise. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the virtual lunch runs without any hiccups.
Benefits of Virtual Lunches
Remote work has many benefits to be sure, but it can be challenging to keep up the rapport you had with your coworkers compared to in-person work environments. Virtual lunches offer a healthy platform to collaborate and provide many ancillary benefits for both employees and employers.
Improved Team Bonding and Camaraderie
Remote work can be isolating, with team members often working in separate locations without regular face-to-face interactions. Virtual lunches provide an opportunity for remote team members to connect with each other on a personal level. During virtual lunches, team members can share stories, jokes, and experiences, which can help build a sense of camaraderie and connection. When employees feel connected to their colleagues, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated in their work.
Increased Collaboration and Communication
Virtual lunches can also help improve collaboration and communication among remote team members. When employees feel comfortable and connected with each other, they are more likely to share ideas and work together effectively. Virtual lunches provide an informal setting where team members can brainstorm, problem-solve, and share information. This can lead to more innovative and effective solutions, which can benefit both the team and the company as a whole.
Enhanced Productivity and Job Satisfaction
When employees are happy and engaged, they are more productive and satisfied in their jobs. Virtual lunches can help improve job satisfaction by providing employees with a sense of community and connection. When employees feel valued and supported by their team, they are more likely to feel motivated and engaged in their work. This can lead to increased productivity and better overall job performance.
Improved Mental Health and Well-being
Remote work can be challenging for mental health and well-being, as it can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and stress. Virtual lunches provide an opportunity for remote team members to socialize and connect with each other, which can have a positive impact on mental health and well-being. When employees feel connected to their colleagues, they are more likely to feel supported and less stressed. This can lead to better overall mental health and well-being, which can benefit both the employee and the company.
Virtual lunches and breaks offer a unique opportunity for remote teams to come together, bond, and collaborate. Keeping these crucial bonding moments as a regular part of the week is super important. If your workplace hasn’t incorporated things like this, talk to your manager and see if they will do a trial with the team!
Jared has worked remotely for 15 years in various marketing capacities, and has managed hundreds of marketing campaigns along the way. He has held freelance, agency, and in-house positions for companies large and small.