“Lunch and learn” might be the easiest office vernacular to understand. It is exactly what it claims to be—a lunch where one learns—at least ostensibly. Usually, however, it seems like there isn’t much to learn.
When employees are asked to bring their own lunch, attendance runs low. An office provided lunch boosts attendance (obviously), but more often than not it turns into an Instagram session while the material is presented.
Best Lunch and Learn Topic Ideas
Here’s the thing: it’s not that employees are opposed to learning something at lunch. Despite YouTube’s siren call, most people prefer to spend their workday productively. In the curious case of lunch and learns, it’s not so much the food that’s served but the material being “learned.” So if you’re looking to launch lunch and learns at your office, put the expensive lobster lunch on hold. Instead, take a long look at the material you’re presenting.
“PowerPoint Basics.” “Timesheet Protocol.” “The Latest and Greatest From Around Our Industry.” Sound familiar? Nobody wants to attend these, but yet we insist on asking employees to forego their lunch hour to something that should be called “training.” Save training for some other time—namely when employees are expecting it—not when they’ve been duped into a conference room for a mediocre sandwich.
If you want to have an effective lunch and learn, consider focusing on lunch and learn topics that are both relevant and engaging to your employees—AKA stuff they’re actually interested in. Better yet, teach them stuff that makes their day a little better. Here are a few ideas for lunch and learns that people might actually enjoy:
1. Desk Fitness
If your employees say they’re completely satisfied sitting at their desks all day, they’re lying. Okay, maybe not the office triathlete guy. But the rest of them are lying. We guarantee it. We’re all wasting away at our desks. But more to the point, we all wish we weren’t wasting away. Chances are, all of your employees are harboring goals to increase their fitness levels. Make it easier for them with a lunch and learn dedicated to actionable ways to exercise from the desk.
Find 5-6 desk exercises online (there are a ton of them), and print them into handouts. Go through each exercise one on one until your co-workers get them down. Do them together and then issue a weekly challenge. Everyone will leave that room having learned something new, they’ll have a great handout, and each will feel better for knowing something that they can roll into his/her 9-5.
2. Collective De-stressing
We’re stressed. We’re stressed about our jobs, our families, our finances, and our health. Expecting your employees to flip the switch and turn off the stress when they walk into the office is a pipe dream.
Hold a lunch and learn about stress relief in the office. A lot of offices are turning to mindfulness as a way to mitigate the effects of stress, but most people don’t know where to start. Use your first lunch and learn as an introduction to mindfulness. Spend several minutes discussing and practicing breathing techniques. Teach your employees about focusing on sights, sounds, and smells. And then use subsequent lunch and learns to put this all into practice. You’ll be giving your employees an extremely valuable skill, and they’ll leave feeling great.
Simpler methods include teaching people to count backwards from 10, teaching fung shui basics for cubicles, or just holding an open “best practices forum” for de-stressing.
3. Office Eating
There is, perhaps, no better venue for teaching about the benefits of healthy office eating than a lunch and learn. Pro tip: if you’re ordering food for this topic, choose something healthy. Nothing will kill your credibility faster than a health forum catered by McDonalds. If you’re having your employees bring their own food, use the venue as a teaching opportunity.
A great idea is turning a healthy eating lunch and learn into a series of lunch and learns on the topic. Encourage your employees to bring their favorite healthy recipes to the meeting. Better yet, have them take turns preparing those recipes for their peers. Print copies of the recipes or find a way to distribute them via your company intranet.
4. Desk Stretching
As we’ve already covered, the desk is hazardous to our health. Most people go home after work feeling sluggish and immobile. There are a variety of desk stretches available and easily performed at the desk, and holding a lunch and learn dedicated to stretching could give your employees some much-needed relief as well as an excuse to stretch during the day without feeling self conscious.
Like recipes, a lot of people already have their favorite stretches. Share them during your lunch and learn. Practice them, provide printouts, and issue challenges. Like all effective lunch and learns, the key is providing actionable takeaways that your employees can use to improve their lives. Use that as your guiding light, and you can turn any lunch and learn into something that people in your office will actually look forward to.