By now, it’s old news that the role of HR professionals in the modern organization isn’t what it used to be. Over the last few years, HR has evolved dramatically. People’s understanding of the importance and impact of HR has expanded, and so have the department’s recognition and responsibilities. Today, HR sits at the executive table, and organizations view HR pros as pivotal business leaders and stakeholders.
HR’s evolution has been underway for the last decade. But the pandemic catalyzed the process, forcing HR pros to think on their feet and find procedures, policies, and tech that enabled success under these newfound circumstances. Alongside these new responsibilities, today’s HR professionals must promote employee wellbeing and happiness to offer much-needed support, engagement, and motivation through difficult times.
It can be easy to forget that all this stress applies to HR professionals, too. COVID, economic downturn, inflation, layoffs: All these are a burden to everyone, especially those with the added responsibility of delivering bad news while trying to manage an entire organization’s stress levels. It’s no wonder that 98 percent of HR professionals are currently struggling with burnout and chronic fatigue at work.
With 95 percent of HR leaders saying that employee burnout sabotages workforce retention—resulting in a loss of $322 billion globally—it’s imperative that organizations recognize these challenges and find ways to support HR professionals, reduce their stress, and retain the talented individuals that serve an ever-more critical function. Here are some strategies that can help.
Strategies to prevent HR burnout
1. Train HR pros to recognize stress and fight burnout
With their focus and concern for the stress levels of other people in the organization, HR professionals may often be too distracted to realize that they, too, are at risk of burnout. Stress awareness training is a great way to help HR pros recognize signs of fatigue in themselves and others. It’s also an opportunity to offer practical strategies for combatting burnout and reducing stress.
Understandably, it is a challenging twist that the planning and execution of this type of training fall to HR teams. It’s essential to avoid contributing added stress by dumping another task on top of an HR team’s already-busy workload. Instead, see if the workload can be distributed across different departments or broken down into smaller tasks spread between multiple people to make them more manageable.
2. Encourage HR teams to accept and ask for help
As people who are used to helping, it can be difficult for HR professionals to ask for the help they need, whether from colleagues or managers. Yet sharing burdens is one of the easiest ways to reduce stress and anxiety. That’s why it’s so important for HR and business leaders, all the way up to the C-suite, to provide HR teams with high levels of support. You can do this by offering help often and setting an example: Reach out and ask for help yourself, openly encouraging other HR professionals on your team to do the same.
3. Promote healthy lifestyles
One of the most effective ways to manage stress is through simple, healthy lifestyle changes, including exercise, mindfulness, and healthy eating. Wellness perks are more than just added EVP: They’re an important way to manage burnout and promote retention.
Aim to offer benefits that apply to all areas of wellness, including exercise, mindfulness, and nutrition. You can choose from many options that best fit your organization, including bringing in trainers, subsidizing gym memberships, hosting meditation classes, offering nutrition counseling, and providing healthy meals and snacks.
Again, be careful not to give HR professionals the burden of easing their own stress. It’s important to spread the work of planning and executing these programs across your HR team, so no one person is overwhelmed by the workload.
4. Provide more PTO and schedule flexibility
Work-life balance is vital to reducing work stress. Whatever flexibility you can offer to give HR teams more free time and control over their personal schedules will go a long way in boosting morale, preventing burnout, and increasing retention within the HR team. Time in lieu, more paid vacation days, and more opportunities to work from home can each make a difference in lightening the load.
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5. Show appreciation
Even with all they have taken on in recent years and the expanded importance of the HR function, only 29 percent of HR professionals feel that their organization values their work.
HR pros need to feel recognized and valued to maintain the motivation to continue pushing through stress and challenges to better the organization. Each late night and difficult conversation will weigh more heavily, contributing to the emotional fatigue that 97 percent of HR pros said they felt from work over the past year. To counter this, consider creating initiatives to recognize and reward individuals on your HR team for their hard work and all the times they go above and beyond.
Taking care of the caretakers
HR professionals will likely be the first to notice and be concerned about organizational burnout. Their desire to help individuals and the organization as a whole will motivate HR pros to work even harder to help reduce the stress of others. But what about burnout in human services?
With such a strong external people focus, HR team members also need advocates to take up the mantle for them, recognizing the problem of burnout in HR and showing a commitment to addressing, preventing, and reducing it before it becomes an attrition problem. The more proactive your organization can be about addressing human services burnout, the better—the entire company will benefit as a result.