Human resources is a highly rewarding profession – but it can also lead to some high-stress situations. It isn’t uncommon for HR specialists to experience some degree of burnout at least once (if not once a year) during their career – and for good reason. In any company, HR faces unique challenges as they do their jobs, like balancing employee advocacy and business goals, preparing for layoffs, racing to keep up with recruiting activities and demand, staying on top of the latest compliance requirements and benefits laws and supporting management in their quest to manage the performance of their teams. This mountain of tasks can be made even more demanding when annual events come around that compete for HR’s time – like performance reviews, audits and personal obligations that come along with this merry time of year. This can put an HR professional under a lot of mental and even physical stress, which can escalate into burnout even for the best of us. When this happens, there is a marked dip in that person’s performance and workplace satisfaction – and as a result the business suffers. Because HR is such a central cog in the company’s operating mechanism, most organizations simply cannot afford to have their key HR players on the bench. Here is how to identify and cope with HR burnout.
Just like HR looks out for employee burnout, we encourage HR to do the same for themselves.
Before you can address burnout, here are some ways to recognize it in yourself and coworkers:
- Short attention span, lack of ability to stay focused
- No energy, exhausted, withdrawn, feel overwhelmed
- No motivation, not taking care of yourself
- Negative attitude, unhappy both personally and professionally
- Performance is decreasing at home and at work
- Health problems develop/increase
Steps to Help Avoid Burnout
There are things that human resources professionals can do both at home and at work to minimize the potential for burnout and mitigate stressors.
Get adequate rest. This seems quite obvious but it is still the most difficult thing for adults to do. If you’re not getting enough sleep, it can make you more susceptible to stress and make the effects of stress much harder to handle. Finding the time to get in the necessary 7-8 hours is important for overall health and especially for peak performance at work. Do whatever it takes to catch enough zzzz’s. This might mean taking some needed time-off or vacation to rest-up so that you are on fire when you return.
Create a mental buffer zone. Human resources professionals are often the first point of contact for employees who are unhappy with situations or who have problems they want to discuss. While this goes with the territory, it also means HR expert are constantly in high-stress situations. To protect yourself against this, it is helpful to remind yourself that their frustration and anger is not pointed at you, and is certainly not your fault. The sheer negativity of these situations can also erode even the most positive of attitudes so we also recommend making a conscious effort to shed the negativity of others so that it doesn’t muddy your own water.
Leave work at work. This is much easier said than done but we encourage everyone to make an effort to leave work at the welcome mat and try to distract yourself from work-related concerns with personal tasks. This can be challenging for modern HR pros who are tied to their handhelds 24/7 and expected to be on-call, but finding definite ‘no-work’ time is important. We suggest speaking with your team, supervisors and leaders to work out agreed upon ‘no-work’ time where you are not expected to be available. Do things that you enjoy when you leave work, socialize with friends and family members, but don’t focus on the work you left on your desk. You spend so much time encouraging a healthy work-life balance for employees – it’s time you also did this for you!
Find ways to help improve workflow. Something as simple as evaluating your internal processes can sometimes help relieve HR burnout. Do you have older, less efficient bottlenecks slowing things down? Are there tasks that can be handed to others or to the management team instead? Are there administrative tasks that can be replaced by technology? Improving overall workflow can help make things a lot easier and free up enough time to keep everything sailing smoothly instead of fighting to get by.
Switch things up: Sometimes daily repetitive tasks can build up until the weight of them and sheer monotony threaten to burn you out. We cannot escape all of the mundane tasks (no one can really) related to our jobs but if you can switch things up a bit that can help to revive the spirit and get the creative juices flowing. Ask if you can swap a project or create a side project of your own that will help break up your usual day and get you back swinging.
Get creative! Chances are if you are feeling a little worse for wear then some of your teammates and colleagues are too. Work as a team to distribute work, optimize processes and find creative ways to relieve tension. Some creative ideas we have seen include: long-lunch Wednesdays (pick a day of the week to have a long lunch with your team and unwind), change jar (every time you work late or are feeling discouraged put a few dollars or some change into a jar – It might add up to a generous amount that will reward you for your time) and even one of our customers has a siesta room where they can grab 15 minutes of quiet time throughout the day if needed.
There is no shame in admitting that burnout might be setting in. The important thing is to recognize the signs and remedy the situation. HR Professionals are the glue that hold an organization together but they also need to look out for themselves.