As a former and sole HR Manager of a manufacturing plant in the beautiful city of Charleston, South Carolina; I often found myself using lunch breaks to get extra work done. Being an ‘HR department of one’ while it can be rewarding, also often has its challenges — time being one of the biggest. Yet, I found that lunch breaks offered a chance to catch up and refocus on the many tasks I was faced with.

How to Use Lunch Breaks in HR

Frequently, I would use this one solid hour to walk around the plant and check in with employees, spending time talking with them about their concerns, hearing the latest news of their lives, and updating them on corporate goings on. This was an effort to build employee engagement and boost relations. Other times, my lunch breaks would be spent interviewing new folks who were trying to leave their current jobs in the quest for a better employment experience. Sometimes, I would (gasp) actually have time to enjoy a healthy meal offsite and work on the latest of what would become a published article for my peers to enjoy.

Tips for Getting the Most from HR Lunch Breaks – Building Employee Relations

However I choose to spend my lunch breaks as an HR professional, I always found this time to be the most productive if I planned something in advance. Using this time wisely helped to meet the demands of my role. Here’s how I did this:

#1 – Scheduled a regular lunch break hour.

If you are going to practice taking lunch breaks as a solitary HR person, then you must add it to your already busy calendar. I used a Google calendar to keep up with all my tasks and set a reminder to alert me that it was time to take a break for lunch daily.

#2 – Created a priority task for each day.

You can get a lot done during lunch breaks, surprisingly. To make the most of this time, I made a list of all the little tasks I had been putting off and focused on getting at least one priority accomplished during that 50-60 minutes of the day.

#3 – Avoided the phone/emails during lunch break.

One trap that many HR professionals fall into easily is that of getting mired in emails and phone calls. And the lunch hour can become a time when this gets out of control. During the hours of noon to 1 pm each day, I had the office secretary take messages for me and instead used that time to talk with employees in person or schedule other important tasks.

#4 – Had a healthy meal or snack to refresh.

Human Resource professionals often forget to take care of themselves because of the number of responsibilities and people they serve. To offset this, I kept bottled water, fresh fruit, granola bars, and other healthy foods around my office to enjoy during lunch breaks—even if I had to eat my lunch while walking around the plant!

#5 – Kept an open door policy during lunch hours.

In the manufacturing world, employees may find it difficult to go visit the HR Lady during peak production hours. Therefore, the lunch break was an opportune time to drop by to speak to me at my office. My door had a welcome sign on it and it was well-communicated that I had an open door policy for anyone who needed to talk.

#6 – Made a point to share lunch with others.

Perhaps the most enjoyable time for me as an HR person was having the opportunity to socialize with other employees in the work environment. In addition to my morning walk-throughs, I often spent my lunch breaks sitting elbow-to-elbow with the hard-working people there, and invited someone to a company paid lunch at least once a week. People say that HR folks are aloof or unfriendly, but this is not the case.

I hope that you use your lunch breaks as a time to build employee relations and morale at your organization by using these hints. A lunch hour is the most important time of the day, for your health and for the connection between your HR department and the success of your company. Use it wisely.

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