Virtual Lunches?

Picnic table sign (D5-5a)

Let's have lunch

Joel Spolsky takes on an important topic in his post today on lunches and I share with him a firm belief in the value of intentionally sharing a meal. It can be an important tool in your work-life balancing act. It can help you transition to leading a team from being a team member.

And it is particularly valuable in sharing ideas and growing trust. Building a team-friendly environment is an intentional act and “lingering at the table” can be a vital part of that.

What about virtual?

But what about your virtual team? Regular video conversations with folks on the team (both one-on-one and as a group) can be as effective in growing a team as many of the other “standard” ways of building a team-friendly environment. But having lunch over Skype or a video call just doesn’t have the same sense of presence as sitting down around a physical table together. (You might not even be in the same or adjoining timezones!) In my experience though, it is better than nothing, but still falls short of lunch “in the real world”.

So, outside of flying the outlying members of your virtual team in for a few days and taking advantage of every minute, what can you as the team leader do that has the same impact as a face-to-face lunch?

What do you think? Can a virtual team grow together in the same (or similar) way as a local, same-location one does?

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