Zoom has been one of the fastest-growing apps in the workplace (and home) according to Okta’s report in the last year. All face-to-face meetings and workplace discussions have moved to virtual meetings. Team engagement and office lunches are also taking place over Zoom and other video conferencing software.
Why do we need virtual engagements?
As teams have been working in a distributed workforce comprising remote workers. These remote workers can either be based in different timezones or based in the same city due to lockdowns in several cities. For many companies, it is a learning experience getting used to understanding virtual relationships especially when it comes to engaging the employees including employee onboarding.
When employees are colocated there is a high possibility of meeting people working in other streams. When employees discuss over lunch or have a watercooler moment, new ideas arise. Companies must try to simulate these moments by organizing virtual lunches.
If you need some help, look below:
What do virtual lunches evoke in employees?
The practice of eating together at the same table is called “commensality”. Lunches help learn from your colleagues, bond with each other, foster deeper professional relationships, and boost productivity. Many scientists in recent years have explored the pandemic-induced process of digital commensality or also known as virtual lunches.
With employees in a distributed workforce, virtual lunches give a feeling that the employees are eating together. Grimes and Harper in their 2008 article noted that eating together has a number of benefits; the primary one being that it amplifies a positive feeling that is shared with their colleagues (Boothby et al, 2014).
The benefits far outweigh the costs.
Benefits of small changes and movements
Asking your employees to replace standing instead of sitting by one hour per day reduces health-related risks as mentioned by So et al, 2018. The scientists at the Research Center for Overwork-Related Disorders in Japan further added that the effects are more noticeable in employees with “non-exercise habits”.
Tips to make your virtual lunch event successful
These are several tips that I recommend to run an engaging event. Be it a lunch or an engagement session on a Friday evening with events such as a quiz or team dinner.
- Assign a facilitator — This person is responsible for scheduling time and activities for your event. This person will make use of tools such as Google forms to ask opinions and run polls. This will save a lot of time in using emails for back and forth communication.
- Set a time limit for your event — Ask your team regarding the time limit they need for this event. If the consensus is 45-minutes or 1 hour, be mindful of that time. In remote teams, individuals could be located in different timezones. Hence, it is important to be prompt when you run the event.
- It is the time to connect — Take this time to connect with your colleagues. It is not the time to speak about deadlines and projects. The facilitator can plan a surprise fun activity for the team.
- Same lunch or dinner — With the services mentioned in the following section, it has become easier for teams located in different parts of the world to enjoy the same food (as long as the food outlet is open at that time in that place)
Digital Technology — Food Delivery
Depending on where you live, you will have access to the following food delivery companies. You can set up a corporate account and provide lunches for your employees.
This trend is set to grow. The menu could be circulated earlier to the individuals so that the facilitator can order the items according to individual choices. Teams that are remote can order and eat similar dishes. There are some challenges in remote lunches, first one is the availability of vendors in different localities and their reach. For example, it is easier to order pizzas from Dominos as they have outlets in different parts of the city or in different countries. But, there is a problem if one teammate chooses a local one-location vendor who serves in their 5 km radius.
Times have changed. So have most of us who have been working remotely for the past year. When you meet your colleagues in virtual events, be sure to follow some ‘virtual etiquettes’.
- Mute your mic when you are not speaking. Speak clearly and slowly.
- Keep your video on for the meeting. You do not have to get overdressed. Keep it casual or decide that through a poll with your colleagues prior to the event.
- If there are internet issues, inform the facilitator and reconnect to the event.
- Do not switch to other programs or windows during the meeting.
Virtual events and lunches are here to stay. It is a new way to connect with people from different timezones or locations. Embrace it, enjoy it and make it better.
Research articles in this post:
- Andrea Grimes and Richard Harper. 2008. Celebratory Technology: new directions for food research in HCI. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ‘08). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 467–476. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/1357054.1357130
- Boothby EJ, Clark MS, Bargh JA. Shared Experiences Are Amplified. Psychological Science. 2014;25(12):2209–2216. doi:10.1177/0956797614551162
- Sasaki, N, Kuroda, R, Tsuno, K, Kawakami, N. Workplace responses to COVID‐19 associated with mental health and work performance of employees in Japan. J Occup Health. 2020; 62:e12134. https://doi.org/10.1002/1348-9585.12134
- Demır, S . (2018). The Relationship between Psychological Capital and Stress, Anxiety, Burnout, Job Satisfaction, and Job Involvement. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, 18 (75), 137–154. Retrieved from https://dergipark.org.tr/en/pub/ejer/issue/42536/512551
- Spence, C., Mancini, M., & Huisman, G. (2019). Digital commensality: Eating and drinking in the company of technology. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2252. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02252
Other research considered but not referenced:
- Park, S., Sung, E., Choi, Y., Ryu, S., Chang, Y., & Gittelsohn, J. (2017). Sociocultural factors influencing eating practices among office workers in urban South Korea. Journal of nutrition education and behavior, 49(6), 466–474. ttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2017.02.005
- Holm L., Kjærnes U., Niva M. (2020) Eating and Drinking in Four Nordic Countries: Recent Changes. In: Meiselman H. (eds) Handbook of Eating and Drinking. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-14504-0_126