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HR Must Care for Themselves to Care for Others

HR Must Care for Themselves to Care for Others
Posted on Thursday, June 11, 2020 by Marcy Klipfel
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Nearly 50% of HR leaders say employee burnout is responsible for up to half of their annual workforce turnover.

HR-Burnout-and-stress

But, what happens when HR pros themselves experience burnout?

If you or someone on your HR team is on the verge of burnout, you’re not alone. In fact, nearly 2/3 of full-time workers, including those in HR, deal with burnout at some point while at work. That’s especially important to remember as HR professionals deal with COVID-19, racial unrest, a rapidly evolving work environment and the most dire economic circumstances we’ve seen in several generations.

Stressed yet?

But you like your job, you say? You always perform at the top of your game, you say? You won’t experience burnout, you say?

Think again. The fact is, one in five employees report both high engagement and high burnout.

Burnout Defined

A long overdue decision by the World Health Organization in 2019 categorized burnout as a syndrome that results from “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” It is characterized by:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • Reduced professional efficacy

Risk Factors for HR Pros

In good times and bad, HR is on the front lines, which presents a unique set of burnout risk factors.

  • A strong economy imposes pressure for talent attraction and retention that can last several years.
  • Each year during annual enrollment, HR heroics are common but often unsustainable.
  • When national crises strike (e.g., a pandemic, natural disaster, etc.), HR professionals become first responders.

Stressors like these can cause burnout in HR professionals, impacting their entire organization. Before HR can take care of the employees they serve, they must first take care of themselves. HR teams can help themselves and each other by keeping an eye out for signs and symptoms of burnout.

Warning Signs

Be mindful of any recent developments regarding workload, deadlines, work location and other influential factors. If you notice any of the changes below in yourself or others, it may be time to address possible burnout.

  • Irritability
  • Worry
  • Social withdrawal
  • Frequent absences or sicknesses

Tips to Alleviate Burnout

Whether you’re experiencing burnout yourself or notice it in others, there are steps one can take to reduce its effects or eliminate it altogether. Here are a few that speak directly to HR professionals.

  • Switch things up. Fortunately for HR, the wide variety of responsibilities within teams provides fertile ground for cross-training. Would your payroll specialist benefit from leading a new retention initiative? Is it time for your hiring manager to dip their foot in the benefits consulting pool? Does your engagement coordinator need to engage in something else, like workplace wellness?
  • In times of stress, the same principles of empathetic employee communication should be applied within your HR team. Doing so opens the door for further discussion where needed.
  • Work smarter, not harder. Benefits pros can experience burnout due to burdensome administrative tasks. Manual data entry, fixing vendor files, processing dependent verifications, etc., can make it seem like you’re spinning your wheels. Outsourcing even a few of your administrative tasks, especially those that can be automated, can help your team focus on more strategic (and more personally rewarding) endeavors.

To learn more about the telltale signs of burnout and how to alleviate its effects, check out HR Burnout: 5 Tips for Managing Stress.

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