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Mental Health and Wellness - Lunch-n-learns

In today’s high-tech world employee expectations continue to grow. Staff are expected to be always-on and always available, even if it means working right through lunch while eating at their desks. But isolation and stress are key factors that affect mental health negatively, ultimately leading to a knock-on effect on employee productivity. Give your staff a chance to unplug, recharge and connect with regular Lunch-n-learn sessions.

Goal


Provide employees with a structured session where they can interact with other employees and learn about an array of topics.

What is a Lunch-n-learn?
A Lunch-n-learn is a voluntary training program scheduled during employee lunch breaks. These sessions typically run anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour with lunch provided by the employer as a way to incentivize greater participation. These events can be hosted anywhere in the office or even outside locations like nearby restaurants depending on the desired investment. The program itself should do exactly what its title suggests, namely providing a venue for employees to enjoy lunch with their coworkers while also learning about easily digested topics that are of interest to all attending. Overall, this event can be a great way to stimulate employee engagement and connection between colleagues.

How do Lunch-n-learns improve employee engagement and culture?
A key driver of engagement is the extent to which employees feel connected to their workplace and coworkers. These sessions create a casual environment where employees across departmental lines can meet face-to-face while collaborating and communicating in a genuine way. Socializing and taking a break from work also improves mental health, indirectly benefitting the productivity of workers and their willingness and ability to engage more wholeheartedly. By offering training and development, employees are apt to feel that the organization is concerned with and values their personal growth. As a result, they will feel a greater personal investment in the company while simultaneously expanding their skillset so they can better contribute.

What are the benefits?
Teambuilding, social connection and increased communication
Skill development and continued growth/learning
Promotion of supportive office culture
Space for introduction of important or timely topics
Transparency as employees from different teams can use the Lunch-n-learn as a platform to share the work they are doing

How do you conduct a Lunch-n-learn in the workplace?
Before launching this initiative, careful preparation should be undertaken including decision-making on key details of the event and promotion of the event in appropriate channels. This event is typically much less formal than a regular training session and generally attendance should not be mandated. Remember that a carrot rather than stick approach is most effective here. Training topics and presenters should be established ahead of time and tailored as best as possible to employees’ availability, needs and interests. Lastly, it is important to remember that this session does not exist in an independent vacuum, and thus employee feedback and requests should be taken into account as needed.

Action


Host a Lunch-n-learn

Decide on important details. This includes questions of time, duration and the venue as well as whether these aspects will be consistent over time. Other elements to consider include how often the session will be run, who will be responsible for making sure the event runs consistently, and the breadth of the event (meaning what employees and teams will involved). A final detail to factor in is whether the Lunch-n-learn will be optional, though this is recommended as to keep its informal quality and to not mandate work during break time.

Promote the event. Digitally this means sending out invites by email, scheduling it in calendars and sharing event info in company newsletters. Physical sign-up sheets and posters are another avenue to pursue alongside traditional face-to-face communication.

Take suggestions for topics. Consider creating a process for allowing employees to suggest their own ideas or topics for learning. This can be as simple as asking employees to come to you with ideas or could entail the creation of a more formal suggestion system.

Prepare training presentations. Topics can be based on prior suggestions or refined to skills that might be useful for staff. While you can choose any topic some example ideas include financial literacy, office ergonomics, time management, mental health and selfcare, cross-training opportunities, team-building activities, important company news and leadership training. One-off presenters can also be selected from within or outside the company. For instance, employees could lead sessions on topics or skills that they are well versed in or local thought leaders could be invited to speak. Where possible try to make sessions interactive and engaging. Each session should have a clear learning objective that answers the question of what knowledge the staff will leave with at the end. Try to choose light topics that can be covered within the allotted time span and remember that your employees are on a break and may have difficulty engaging deeply with a complex topic. As the event continues to run you may decide to occasionally implement fun topics like creativity or game activities.

Prepare food. Make sure to decide on restaurants to order from in advance. You can incorporate employee suggestions if you desire. Remember that variety rather than the same old food items will better engage employees and encourage them to attend. In addition to food and depending on budget you may want to occasionally provide takeaways like stress balls and other physical reminders of the meeting.

Host the Lunch and Learn. Enjoy the product of your work. Encourage participation by asking questions and starting the conversation. Focus on involving all employees and getting them thinking about the topic at hand. Make sure that it runs according to time and keep it casual and lighthearted. Leave some time for mingling and socializing before or after the event—icebreakers can be used for employees that don’t know each other. The space should be kept open afterwards for those that want to engage in post-event discussions.

Don’t forget about your remote employees or those that can’t attend. Offer video conferencing in for remote employees with food vouchers or gift cards in lieu of a meal. You can also record the session and maintain an intranet record of these Lunch-n-learns for interested parties.

Incorporate feedback. Gather constructive criticism after the event. This can be through informal conversation or via a written survey. Make changes as requested and keep hosting Lunch-n-learns. Persistence and consistency pays off.

Reference Material
15 Ways To Create a Successful Lunch & Learn
What is Lunch and Learn?
How to Create a Learn-At-Lunch Program

Updated on: 12/24/2020

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