The world has faced extraordinary amounts of change over the last few years, from the COVID pandemic and widespread adoption of remote work to hyper-growth, the Great Resignation, layoffs, an unpredictable economy, and the rise of AI.
Businesses are under more pressure than ever. They’re grappling with embracing new ways of work, boosting efficiency while cutting costs, the lowest employee engagement levels in a decade, and record-high levels of burnout.
Through it all, modern businesses have come to rely on their HR teams more than ever. The result? Today’s HR professionals are tasked with devising new and agile business strategies faster than they can keep up. And as people people, they’ve also found themselves playing the roles of everything from business advisor to therapist to ensure the business is resilient and that the workforce is happy, healthy, and engaged.
With everything they do for businesses, it can be easy to forget that HR team members are people just like everyone else, struggling with the same stressors they’re helping other people navigate.
As the caretakers at their organizations, HR pros often forget (or forego) investing time in their own wellbeing. It’s no wonder almost 90 percent of them say they dread going to work, and a full 98 percent say they’re burned out.
In the spirit of wellness and teamwork, we’re here to celebrate everything the world’s incredible HR teams do for us—and pay it forward. That’s why we asked HR leaders across the HiBob community how they invest in their own wellbeing, and what self-care practices they can pass on to their fellow HR colleagues.
Here’s what they had to say.
How are you coping with today’s unprecedented levels of stress and uncertainty?
The pressure is on. Everyone is experiencing unprecedented levels of stress, from members of the C-suite to individual contributors. And when they need help coping at work, they turn to their HR teams.
“I lean into my teammates for support, and take advantage of the support the company provides for all its employees, such as HiBob’s Balance Days,” said Toby Hough, people and culture director, EMEA at HiBob.
Another great tip came from Meirav Levkowitz, HiBob’s employee experience manager. To cope with stress and uncertainty, she said she focuses on prioritizing “sports lessons, walking, sharing how I’m doing with my managers and colleagues. I’m a verbal person, so venting helps.”
As stress levels rise, it’s important to prioritize “Me Time” and take advantage of the resources you have, including great teammates, HR tech, and any health and wellness benefits your company offers to take the load off as your responsibilities continue to grow.
How have your responsibilities as an HR professional changed in the last few years?
Through drastic and unforeseen changes in the world of work, including pandemics and economic rollercoasters, HR professionals have inherited more mission-critical business responsibilities. In addition to the traditional administrative role, HR is now integral to helping organizations structure (and restructure) versatile global business strategies built to keep businesses afloat.
With all the changes, Maj Kær, global vice president of people at Shaping New Tomorrow, told us that HR reminds her of being a parent. “We do everything we can to nurse, to educate, to motivate, and to keep people (and our children) safe,” she said. “And in times of trouble like we’ve been experiencing for the past few years with COVID, etc., this is even more true. As parents and HR, we tend to put our own needs last … We need to be better at self-nurturing and caring for ourselves. And support and remind each other in doing so.”
Toby said that he doesn’t see the changes as drastic, but as gradually shifting. “More and more team leaders will come to us for advice and guidance on how to handle difficult situations, which is a positive change. It shows more care and thought goes into such occasions.”
And, as the shift evolves, the scope of HR responsibilities expands, too. Our US People and Culture Director, Annie Rosencrans, shares, “There’s now a much greater emphasis on supporting ‘the whole person’ as opposed to just the professional. That means HR is grappling more and more with issues related to mental and physical health, family challenges, and the personal aspirations of our employees. This evolution means we need to be more effective in supporting complex employee issues and coaching leaders on how to handle them.”
It’s natural for rapid and constant change to be stressful, which is what led us to our next question.
What are some best practices you’ve found to help you invest in your own wellbeing?
More and more, HR professionals find themselves playing therapist, best friend, parent, and many other roles that blur the line between professional and personal relationships. While it’s critical to draw clear boundaries between appropriate and inappropriate topics of discussion at work, it’s even more important for HR teams to take the time to focus on their own wellbeing with just as much gusto as they focus on helping others.
According to Meirav, it’s “simply about making time available” for investing in yourself and your wellbeing because it can be hard to do when you’re so wrapped up in daily tasks, urgent priorities, and helping other people put out fires.
“For me, the key to reducing my stress and anxiety has been to focus on the basics,” Annie said. “I’ve really prioritized the fundamentals of good sleep, healthy eating, and regular exercise to keep my mind and body healthy. When I find myself devolving into bad habits and high levels of stress, the first thing I look to do is rest my routine. It takes a lot of self-awareness and discipline, but it works if I commit to it.”
In a similar vein, Toby emphasized that it’s critical to “keep the ‘non-negotiables,’” saying that for him, this includes “things like my weekly singing group, and ensuring I exercise during the week.”
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What everyday workplace practices can help alleviate your stress and stress across your HR organization?
Sticking to an anti-stress routine outside of the workplace is paramount to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but work stress is called “work stress” for a reason: It happens on the job. Developing best practices to take the pressure off of yourself and your colleagues across your organization in the face of rising stress levels is key to achieving personal wellness and healthy work environments.
To start, one of the easiest things you can do to set boundaries and give yourself the breathing room you need is to block your calendar. “Calendar blocking is something I began doing years ago,” Annie said. “It’s an absolute must for me in managing my schedule and ensuring that I have enough time in the day to process information from the day, focus on heads-down work, and recharge between meetings.”
It’s also important to talk things out with your colleagues and your manager. “If your manager is empathetic and willing to help you cope, this can help a lot,” Meirav said.
Building on that, Toby told us that making use “of external experts to ensure we are keeping on top of trends, but without putting all the pressure on the team” is also key to lowering stress across the organization. “It’s also important to set up confidential safe spaces amongst HR team members of the same level so they can brainstorm ideas and solutions with one another.”
Emily Williams, people and culture manager at Bolt Insight, shared a story about how taking a real breather during the workday can go such a long way in relieving stress, bringing team members closer together, and building a strong company culture.
“One of my co-founders closed off his diary on a Friday afternoon just to take me out for food and tea,” she explained. “It was such a lovely gesture and I knew the impact for him was quite big. He didn’t want to talk about work, he just wanted to talk to me. It wasn’t big, but it made a big difference to me.”
It’s easy for HR people to take care of everyone else. But to give our colleagues 100 percent, we have to be at the top of our game. That’s why taking time to invest in yourself is more important than anything.
Prioritizing self-care is the key to HR wellness
In today’s world of fast turnaround, rapid change, high expectations, and lofty goals, it’s critical to allow yourself to take a break and put your own wellbeing at the top of your to-do list.
As Toby says, “HR team members are team members like any other.” Making HR wellness a priority benefits everyone in HR and every person you work with across the business. So, take a beat and dedicate a portion of each day to your health and wellbeing. This simple wellness practice is key to avoiding burnout, boosting your energy, and improving your clarity—giving you exactly what you need to do what you do best as an HR professional: helping your people thrive.