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How to use Mystery Lunch to boost your company culture

Blog / 28. März 2024 / bei Christoph Drebes
A group of male and female coworkers socializes over lunch.

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Did you know that lunch breaks can be an essential part of your company culture? 

Some employers feel like lunch is nothing but an annoying break in the day, just a time for employees to slack off. Some companies keep track of every minute that an employee is away from their desk. They may even write them up for taking more than the legally mandated minimum break. 

Leaving aside how terrible that kind of micromanagement is for morale, what these managers fail to understand is that lunch can be a huge opportunity for an organization. While there are certainly days when employees prefer to decompress and eat alone, a conversation over a meal can be the key to a lot of innovation. 

And how better to facilitate stimulating and entertaining conversation than a Mystery Lunch initiative? 

Why should companies invest in lunch breaks? 

In 2016, it was revealed that 62% of American workers eat lunch at their desks. Even worse, ezCater’s 2022 discovery that 10% of workers don’t ever take a lunch break! The same 2022 study discovered that 78% of workers believe that taking a proper lunch break away from their desks improves their job performance. 

This seems to be another generational or hierarchical divide. 48% of Baby Boomers never eat lunch at their desks, while only 10% of Gen Z and 26% of Millennials have the same good habits. In fact, 25% of Gen Z employees surveyed said that they worried about their employers judging them negatively if they took a lunch break away from their desks. 

Benefits of Lunch Breaks: a graphic shows that 40% of employes felt less stress, and 37% felt less burnt out after a lunch break. Additionally, 47% felt better mental clarity and 25% felt more creative.

Meanwhile, 40% of employees said a full lunch break makes them less stressed, and 37% said that they felt less burnt out. 47% said that they had better mental clarity after a lunch break, and 25% said they felt more creative after lunch.  

So, a lunch break is good for employees – and it’s good for companies as well! But how can you encourage employees to actually take a lunch break? Mystery Lunch can help you to put proper lunchtime initiatives in place. 

What is Mystery Lunch? 

Mystery Lunch is a software solution that randomly matches your employees for lunch dates. 

The central benefit of the platform is the powerful matchmaking algorithm. The algorithm can be adapted to include several different criteria, which means that Mystery Lunch can be used for all kinds of initiatives and events.  

Additionally, the solution offers a wide range of customization options. For example, you can change several of the design elements to match your organization’s brand. 

From the user’s perspective, it’s extremely simple. They just register once on the online platform and select which networking initiatives (known as “Communities”) they’d like to participate in. Once they’ve registered, they’ll be automatically matched with colleagues. 

For more information about the solution’s features, check out the full feature catalog. And if you want a demonstration of the solution to see how it works, you can get in touch with us today.   

If an in-person meeting doesn’t work for your organization, or you think shorter sessions might suit your employees better, then check out Mystery Coffee! Mystery Coffee randomly matches employees for a short virtual conversation. 

How to use Mystery Lunch for company culture 

As we already mentioned, Mystery Lunch can be configured in all kinds of ways. That means that you can create specific initiatives that will capture your colleagues’ imaginations and give them some extra structure for networking.  

Here are five specific ways that you can use Mystery Lunch in your different People & Culture initiatives. 

Support health and wellness initiatives 

Many organizations already offer a range of health and wellness programs for their employees. Encouraging healthy eating is often one goal while supporting employees to take regular breaks for their mental health is another. Mystery Lunch can be used as a way to achieve both targets. 

A diverse group of colleagues picks up a healthy lunch from the office cafeteria.

By giving explicit permission for employees to take a proper lunchbreak, employers can confirm their commitment to mental and physical wellbeing.  

Organizations with a cafeteria or on-site restaurants can also use a Mystery Lunch initiative to underline that these locations are places where social exchanges are welcome and encouraged – and potentially to promote their healthy food options.

Combining a Mystery Lunch initiative with your existing subsidized food options gives you a lot of opportunities to increase the uptake of both initiatives.  

Deeper onboarding

We’ve written extensively about the importance of onboarding – and how our other solution, Mystery Coffee, can be an ideal piece of the onboarding puzzle. However, a 15-minute chat might not be enough to help new employees feel truly connected to their colleagues. 

Lunchtime can be lonely for new employees – they don’t always know what time everyone takes their breaks, and they might not have a group to sit with in the break room or cafeteria. An initiative like Mystery Lunch can pair new employees with a lunch buddy every week, making sure that they don’t feel isolated. 

Lunchtime matching can also help new employees put names to faces and get a deeper understanding of how their connections contribute to the organization.

CEO Lunches

It’s important that ordinary employees take their lunch breaks, but it’s also important that senior managers don’t lose touch with their staff. Mystery Lunch offers you a way to combine these two concepts.

A CEO lunch initiative gives those at the top of a company’s hierarchy the opportunity to get to know people that they don’t work with every day. More junior staff can use these sessions to ask questions that their immediate supervisor might not know the answer to, while senior staff can get a sense of what the employee experience is currently like. They might discover problems or ideas that wouldn’t have otherwise reached them. 

It can be a bit intimidating to speak to a CEO one-on-one, so this is an ideal opportunity to implement group matching, where a random group of employees are matched with the CEO. That way, the pressure is off, and it can also be a chance for employees to meet colleagues from other departments. 

Integrate international employees

We’ve spoken about onboarding, but if you have a particularly international workforce, then Mystery Lunch can be a great tool for integration. Food is often a unifying aspect of culture, and most people like to bond over some kind of meal. 

Two women colleagues in smart casual clothing laugh together as they eat a healthy lunch in a restaurant.

Here are some ideas for how you can implement Mystery Lunch for cultural exchange and integration: 

  • Language learning lunches: match employees who speak a language with those who want to practice that language. This makes it clear that your organization celebrates its diversity and welcomes different voices. 
  • International cuisine exchanges: encourage employees to use their Mystery Lunch to share information or even a taste of their home country’s cuisine. If you have an in-house cafeteria, you could even take suggestions for national dishes that they could prepare, making it an event for the whole company.  

Connect interest groups

Finally, Mystery Lunch can be an opportunity to connect employees who didn’t even know they had something in common. For example, you could connect a group of film lovers, cyclists, or board game fans for a shared group lunch. You never know what kind of new connections you’ll be helping people to make – all while building out your employees’ internal networks. 

By building a casual, interest-based network, you’re reinforcing that the organization values every individual’s unique perspective. You’ll also increase employees’ feeling of connectedness – both to their colleagues and to the organization. 

Can Mystery Lunch work for remote or hybrid companies? 

Yes! Mystery Lunch generally works best in person, for practical reasons. Some people might not like to eat in front of a camera, or to hear people chewing through their headphones. For others, that’s not a problem. Here at Mystery Minds, we have quarterly virtual lunches via Microsoft Teams that work just fine. 

However, Mystery Lunch can be an excellent addition for hybrid companies, to encourage employees to meet in person in the office.  For example, if colleagues only work in the office on certain days, they can use these days to meet up for a Mystery Lunch.   

To help with the organization of these meetings, you can use partner software such as HyThere. These kinds of solutions allow employees to share the days they'll be working remotely or in the office. 

However, for remote-only and remote-first teams, we usually recommend Mystery Lunch’s sister solution, Mystery Coffee. It is just as flexible as Mystery Lunch, but the sessions are generally shorter and always virtual.  

How can we implement Mystery Lunch? 

The first step to implementing Mystery Lunch is to schedule a demo or book a consultation. Our experts will help you to define your goals, whether you have something very specific in mind or whether you’re interested in a general networking solution. This is where you’ll define which categories of employees should be matched and how often. 

You then have the option to test Mystery Lunch free for a limited period, during which time you’ll have access to most features. Generally, we advise testing with a limited group of people, so that you can communicate the full roll-out in a polished way once you’re ready. 

Once you decide to roll out Mystery Lunch to your organization, we can give you some support with your internal communications. We have templates and campaign ideas that you can adapt and use for your organization. Together, we’ll plan for the most effective launch! 

Mystery Lunch: how will you use it? 

Now that you know all about Mystery Lunch, how do you see it working for your organization? 

If you’ve got an initiative in mind that we didn’t cover, feel free to get in touch with us. One of our consultants will be able to help you design a plan that works for your business.  

And if you’re ready to try Mystery Lunch for yourself, you can book a demo today to get the process started! 

Über den Autor:

Christoph Drebes

Christoph ist ein Unternehmer aus München und hat Mystery Minds 2016 mitbegründet. Das Unternehmen hat es sich zur Aufgabe gemacht, die Arbeitswelt menschlicher zu gestalten, indem es wertvolle, persönliche Verbindungen zwischen Kolleg:innen schafft. Das remote-only Team arbeitet bereits mit über 250 internationalen Unternehmen zusammen und hilft ihnen dabei, internen Netzwerke zu stärken und die Silo-Mentalität zu überwinden.


Original veröffentlicht am 28. März 2024 um 11:00, geändert am 29. März 2024 um 14:51

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