Unlock Your Employees from Their Desks with Lunch and Learns

Christine Johnson, Cued Forward on
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Recent polls show that over 60% of Americans eat lunch at their desks.  They do this for a variety of reasons ranging from simply wanting to avoid the lunchroom to saying there is not enough time to get things done.  While at least employees are eating lunch, they are not decompressing from their day, they are not moving around nor are they adding value to their personal selves.  (And no, searching social media does not count.)  Doesn’t this sound like a great opportunity for employers to do something about their desk-loving employees with lunch and learns focused on personal development?  It is.

And yes, by combining an opportunity to grow personally through a program or activity with lunch, employers are encouraging their employees to step out of their comfort zones for forty-five minutes or so.

Any manager (not only human resources) can set up a simple lunch and learn, teach and eat, or chew and do program in three easy steps.

How Often?

Determine how many lunch and learns you want to hold in a quarter.  I say a quarter because business changes fast and it may be unrealistic to try to and plan out for a year.  Also determine the time for the program.  Can everyone attend at the same time or are two sessions needed?  (A little more complicated, but definitely still doable.)  Finally, determine what you would consider a “successful” program.  Is it 10 employees in attendance or 10% of a production team?  Metrics are important to gain support for continuing the programs as well as motivating employees to come in the future – – – “Let’s reach more!”

What Type(s)?

Determine the type.  There are many ways to hold a successful lunch and learn sessions.  Depending on how many, you could use a variety of approaches to keep it fresh. A traditional session includes scheduling a presenter (or some media to watch), securing a location to hold the session, sending out invites, and receiving RSVP’s.  The employees would typically stay the length of their “lunch hour” (which could be anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on an organization’s policy).

If looking to keep these sessions more causal, “pop up” lunch and learns are a great option.  A “pop up” lunch and learn would be one where you announce it either the day before or the day of the event similar to pop sup stores and restaurants.  Its short time between invite and event may be thing ticket for more employees attending.

Another option may be a “drop in” program where the program facilitator remains at the location of the lunch and learn for a period of time for either quick, repeated presentations or one-on-one times with employees.  Employees can “browse” at their leisure.  While this approach may not expand the camaraderie of sharing a meal together or socializing as a group, it could be a great opportunity for organizations with multiple shifts.

Lastly, you can always fall back on technology-based programs like webinars.  But if you goal is to get your employees up and away from your desk, this is probably not the best option.

What Topics?

What topics do you want to cover?  If your organization already captures development information through surveys or development planning sessions, start with that information.  Otherwise, here is a list of some topics to get your lunch and learns started:

  • In-office exercises and stretches
  • A cooking class from a nutritionist or easy healthy brown bag lunch ideas
  • Lunch with TED. Find a TED talk to watch together and discussing.  There are many topic options with this one.
  • How to beat the afternoon “Slump”
  • How to create a workspace that enhances creativity
  • How to get an extra hour out of each day (time management)
  • Fun places to visit in the local community
  • The operations, functions, and contributions of any department in the company
  • “Sip and Paint” or similar art-related activity. (Without the wine of course.)
  • Techniques of speed reading

Remember, the presenters for these sessions can be current vendors who come out to your site as a value add-on, employees who want to speak on a topic, or others from the local community (ie: chamber of commerce, local colleges, nonprofits).

As with any program offering to employees, take care to make sure all employees have the opportunity to participate if they choose and understand where and when paid compensation may be required.  If done voluntarily over an unpaid lunch break, there should not be an issue.

Cued Forward can help you answer questions about lunch and learns, develop lunch and learn programs, or speak on a variety of personal development topics at your small business’ lunch and learns.  Click here to contact us directly about how we can help you get your organization’s program started.

Have you ever attended a lunch and learn?  If so, let us know your favorite topic in the comments section below.


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