Management Magazine
Office Diary

Brown bag meetings – lunch and learn

Brown bags are a fun and time saving way to hold meetings within tight schedules.

By CAROLINE MWENDWA

Sometimes a day can be so clammed up with things to do that calling for a meeting during the working hours feels like a time waster. That is when a brown bag session comes to save the day. Some items such as discussing pertinent issues affecting a small group of people in the organisation, or even clarifying on various functions of an organisation to new employees, can be discussed in brown bag sessions. 

A brown bag session also known as ‘lunch and learn’ are a fan and motivating way of sharing information, where employees talk of their interests or opportunities to learn over lunch hour. Instead of the organisation incurring costs of meals and space in hotels, or using up working hours, employees come with their own lunch, in a boardroom or an agreed venue and eat while engaging in the agreed discussions. The name ‘brown bag’ is derived from the common packaging of the lunch carried by the participants, especially fast foods. 

Why brown bag session

The setting is usually informal which encourages openness and participation as opposed to a tight environment where people have their guards uptight. This makes the session interesting while edifying at the same time. Brown bag sessions are built around the need for continuous learning, and may be on various lifelong skills, which can enhance the teams’ performance at work and knowledge about life in general. As such, speakers can be outsourced, or just in house, depending on the topic of discussion and interests of the members. 

They are also a great way to create team building and increase productivity of the staff, as they help break the workstation routine. Finally, there are minimal costs billed on the company as in most cases individuals cater for their own lunches. However, if you are the organiser, you can identify a sponsor of the session, who sees value of the discussions, and suggest that they sponsor the meals. 

Choosing topics for Brown Bag sessions

While there can be a wide range of organisational topics such as benefits of various company provisions to employees or a detailed explanation of product(s) or service(s) of the organisation, brown bag sessions could be on other ‘out of the box’ agenda benefiting the participants. For example, staff could pick a topic on parenting, shopping healthy food stuffs, issues on personal image and so on. Of importance is having the attendees aware of the agenda on time so that they can come prepared. The more interactive the session, the better. By frequently setting up these sessions, employees learn so much about one another, and become savvy on the topics they discuss, hence killing many birds with one stone. 

Caroline Mwendwa is the editor Management Magazine. Email: cmwendwa@kim.ac.ke

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