With hybrid work coming into the forefront, virtual lunches may seem a little too routine – even if you’re all ordering the same type of takeout or making and sharing your favorite sandwiches. Here, we’ll explore innovative and exciting virtual lunch ideas that inspire and engage employees to power through the rest of their day.

1. Add an agenda

While a virtual lunch doesn’t always need a plan, a creative way to make your time more meaningful is to add a work-adjacent agenda to your lunch. You might be thinking of a stretch goal or aspirational project your company could take on, petitioning for an outdoor workspace, or an HR policy they might need to change – those are all fair topics during your virtual lunch. You could also make up something silly, like which animal would best represent each department.

Virtual lunches aren’t meant to be taken too seriously, even if you have an agenda. And sometimes, when you get to act out or hyperbolize some of your stresses about fake meetings, you might find a catharsis that allows you to manage frustrations better during real meetings.

2. Storytelling workshops

Another option for virtual lunch ideas is a storytelling workshop. Pick any range of storytelling topics, and let each member have the opportunity to tell a story that will keep the rest of your team engrossed. Your themes can be topics like local history about the towns your teams grew up in or family stories about famous cousins. You can also do an exercise like “The Autobiography of Anything,” where you tell the story of a meaningful item around your house.

These small stories can teach you a lot about what your coworkers find meaningful and interesting. You might also learn something about their heritage or family tree.

3. Lunch and learn

Lunch and learn might be one of the most popular virtual lunch ideas, but it certainly isn’t the most cookie-cutter. In this virtual lunch, team members will pick a topic to learn about from a YouTube video, TED Talk, or even a guest speaker who can come in and lecture on something unusual. Options range from hiring an expert bird handler to talk about owls or listening to a neuroscientist explain having a stroke.

Afterward, you can process the talk together, discuss what you’ve learned, and share your thoughts or feelings.

4. Team talks

The next option is to make your own lunch-and-learn and allow teammates to conduct their own talks. Everyone has a hidden talent, passion, or expertise on a subject. This exercise gives them the opportunity to tell teammates about that subject, and everything is fair game, from Lord of the Rings to horseback riding.

Depending on how many team members are in your virtual lunch, you can divide up the period equally among everyone, leaving a little time for questions and answers after each lecture. Team members can also make funny PowerPoints or do a bit of show-and-tell if it fits in with their talk.

5. Playlist party

Another virtual lunch idea is to create a playlist and listen as you eat. You can choose a theme, a genre like pop music or indie rock, a mood, or a scene, like “music to listen to on the beach.” Teammates will rate songs from 1-to 10 and add songs at the moment if the mood strikes them. You don’t even have to have your cameras or microphones on – this exercise you can do over chat.

This can create a better picture of a team’s energy that day, and it might even teach you about what some of your coworkers are listening to when you see them with earbuds on days at the office.

6. Ask me anything

While ask me anything is a popular internet game, it can also become a popular lunchtime game. Here, participants ask others questions, and other participants must piggyback from the preceding question to ask another coworker something adjacent. You can use an anonymous question-asking tool if it makes everyone feel more comfortable, but ultimately, this game is light-hearted, so you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up.

This virtual lunch idea is most fun when you’re having a virtual lunch with a boss or manager, as you can get to know them a bit better than you would in a typical work setting.

7. Quiz competition

Another virtual lunch idea is one that keeps your brain firing on all cylinders: a quiz game. It might seem like you already know that your coworkers are bright as you work with them each day. But you could be surprised at how much your teammates know about things you never discuss, like history, art, geography, and more.

You can either work separately or on small teams to solve questions and learn more about your coworkers’ knowledge using an online Jeopardy! simulator or by creating your own trivia game with free platforms like this Jotform Quiz Maker. You don’t have to have winnings, but if you do, they can be a gift card, a no-meeting afternoon, or another office perk.

8. Remote wellness retreat

If your team is feeling stressed or overwhelmed, you can use your virtual lunch to take a small remote wellness retreat. Companies like Kabloom allow you to choose wellness-themed rooms, have mindfulness meditations, make some detox cocktails, try some team yoga, or learn self-care practices. This can be a relieving and relaxing addition to your day and help reset you for the afternoon ahead.

If you’re not looking to get that serious during your virtual lunch, you can take one of those activities, like mindfulness meditation or some light team stretching, and create an hour of solitude in an otherwise hectic day.

9. Secret lunch

Plan to send a meal to your employees using a food delivery app service or partnering with a local restaurant if your team is in the same city. You can run a survey of the menu options or partner with a food delivery service or restaurant to get a unique code to make it easy for your team to pick and order their meal. Pro tip: Hive Forms makes it easy to do pool surveys and collect feedback. If your HR department has the capacity, you can take the secret lunch game to another level by assigning people to order lunch for one another as a surprise. The planning and logistics of this exercise work like a Secret Santa. Be aware of food allergies and preferences in advance to make the game a pleasant surprise and not a lunch nightmare. A good strategy is to run a pool letting people choose their three favorite dishes, dislikes, and food restrictions. This activity can also be a great way to encourage team building across departments

Hive is the world’s first democratically built productivity platform. Learn how we can help you, here.