How to avoid burnout as an HR professional
One of the key responsibilities of HR is to ensure the wellbeing and effectiveness of employees at work. However, it would seem that HR professionals need to pay themselves more attention now too. According to research from Workvivo, of HR professionals in the US and UK, 98% of HR professionals are burned out. This means they feel exhausted, unmotivated, unwell and most likely like they are failing at their jobs. The cause of this recent trend? According to the study, it’s the immense pressure of dealing with remote and hybrid working transitions brought on by the pandemic.
The results are concerning—and should create a call to action. As I'm sure you know, burnout, or extreme stress and exhaustion if not dealt with quickly, can have dire consequences. Luckily, there are several things you can do as an HR professional to help prevent burnout in yourself and others.
But before we look at these, how can you determine if you are heading towards burnout? It's often easier to spot changes in the behaviour of others than in your own. This is because it's more difficult to see our own habits and tendencies. If you notice any of the following behaviours in yourself, it's time to take action to prevent burnout:
- You're working all the time and don't take any breaks
- You're feeling disconnected from your work
- You're easily annoyed or angered by things that wouldn't normally bother you
- You feel like you can't keep up and are constantly behind
- You're not eating or sleeping properly
So what can you do?
One of the most important things you can do is prioritise self-care. Take time for yourself every day to do things that make you feel good, both mentally and physically. This could be anything from reading, going for a walk, or listening to music. It’s also important to stay connected with your support system, whether that’s friends, family, or a therapist.
Assess your workload
If part of the reason you're feeling exhausted is that you're overwhelmed by the workload, it's time to take a step back and assess what's really necessary. Make a list of all the tasks you need to complete. Next, organise them into groups: the tasks that you need to do as soon as possible (Priority); the tasks that you need to do at some point (Defer); the tasks that someone else could do for you (Delegate); and the tasks that aren't important and will have little impact on the business (Delete). Then, order the first list again by priority. Once you have a better understanding of what's required of you, you can start to focus on what's truly important.
If your Delegate list was fairly long and you don't have sufficient support to pass those tasks on to, then it might be wise to recruit some HR professionals to help you. This will take the pressure off and allow you to focus on more strategic tasks.
It's important to set boundaries between work and home life, so you don't become completely consumed by your job. This could mean setting a specific time that you finish work each day, or not checking work email after certain hours. By doing this, you'll be able to maintain a better work-life balance and avoid burnout. You’ll also be setting a good example to other employees.
Could some of the workload be done by machine? Automation can be used for administrative tasks such as keeping track of employees, managing leave requests, administering benefits, and onboarding employees. You can even use chatbots as a triage platform for employees with simple HR needs, funnelling enquiries through a pre-set range of questions and answers.
There are many ways HR can embrace technology to not only make them more efficient but also to enhance communication and data analysis. If there are processes that can be automated, this will free up time for you and help you feel more in control.
Overall, there are several things that HR professionals can do to prevent burnout in themselves and others. These include prioritising self-care through taking time for yourself each day, setting boundaries between work and home life, automating tasks whenever possible, and assessing your workload to determine what's truly important. By taking these steps, you can better manage your stress levels and avoid burnout in the workplace.
Ian Moore, founder of HR Consultancy Lodge Court, has 27 years of HR experience and has worked across a variety of industry sectors including IT, Telecommunications, Media Data Publishing, Financial Services and FMCG.
This experience has made him one of the UK’s leading independent HR consultants, providing advice to everyone from growing...