Studies show that employee burnout affects a staggering number of workers across various industries. According to a Gallup study, around 23% of employees report feeling burned out at work very often or always, while a further 44% experience it occasionally.
What happens when some of those stressed-out employees are on your human resources team? In this article, we’ll look at the impacts of burnout on the HR team, and more importantly, how your organization can avoid it.
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A Growing Problem: Human Resources Burnout
Signs of burnout are rampant in organizations. If you see any of the below happening on your HR team, be aware they could be an indication of burnout:
Withdrawal and isolation
What’s causing HR burnout?
As an HR pro leading a team, I speak from experience when I tell you that we were the “go-to” people for our clients during the pandemic. As the rules, regulations, and best practices changed for employers, we made the best decisions we could with the information we had (and oftentimes took the heat for actions not everyone agreed with).
Even now, we’re dealing with repercussions from COVID, like the Great Resignation, compliance issues, illness and PTO policies, the dramatic shift to working from home, and more.
Excessive Workload & Long Working Hours
Research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that employees working more than 55 hours per week have a higher risk of experiencing burnout.
Increasingly Muddled “Gray Areas”
In HR, we take our role as an advisor seriously. Every HR professional I know wants to believe there is always an answer when things are out of our control or new (basically everything from early 2020 to current day!). As we now operate in the “gray area,” a lack of black and white, “yes” or “no” answers” is taking a toll on us psychologically. We didn’t have all the answers during the pandemic, but we did the best we could despite not knowing next steps or the best advice to give. This continues today—we’re still operating in the unknown to the best of our abilities, but it’s getting harder to do with less support or acknowledgment.
A Shortage Of Time To Recharge
Many HR team members tend to feel as if they always have to be “on”—bubbly, talkative, and outgoing. But the strain of the last three years is catching up to us, and we’re employees, too. We act as the catch-all and go-to for other departments, but who do we have as go-to’s? In most cases, there isn’t a good answer to that question, which is what’s leading to the resignation, attrition, and growing apathy in the HR office.
How To Combat HR Burnout
If morale in the HR office is deteriorating, what can you do to combat it? Or even better, how can you prevent it from happening in the first place? Here are my suggestions for addressing the stresses of being in HR in order to prevent them from negatively affecting your HR team.
1. Reassess your team’s workload.
Everyone has a heavy workload, and in HR, this quickly leads to burnout. Audit the type and quantity of work your HR team is doing for your organization and see if they match the number of employees you have and their skill sets. Are multiple roles and responsibilities too much for a single HR professional? A lot of short-staffed companies simply expect their HR managers to “fix it”—whatever “it” may be.
HR teams deal with a huge number of employee issues—often issues that aren’t within the scope of their jobs, or time-consuming one-off matters.
2. Evaluate your team’s emotional and mental states and take action if you find they’re struggling.
HR teams, like all departments, face immense pressure to perform at high levels, and they can also get worn down. Managers and employers should meet regularly to gauge individuals’ emotional states and address concerns as needed. Meeting regularly can reinforce the open-door policy for managers and employees to keep the dialogue open when they are feeling burnt out.
Meeting regularly will allow employees to plan and prioritize, assisting them with the right tools to feel they have a good handle on their day to day operation, even if it is making a list of the tasks to complete and then setting realistic deadlines to accomplish them.
3. Assuage fears of job insecurity.
Employees facing burnout report higher feelings of insecurity in their jobs. To combat that, HR managers should welcome open conversation from employees about this fear. Be a resource by offering education, helpful resources, and training (virtual or hands-on). Actively investing in your employees allows them to feel secure in their role – whether this be by presenting learning opportunities, acknowledging their success; this contributes to morale and decreases stress levels!
Sometimes, all that’s needed is for your HR team to know someone is listening to their struggles. I also suggest implementing regularly scheduled 1-1 meetings to make sure you have your finger on the pulse of your team.
4. Prevent overwork.
Overwork is one of the most common causes of burnout I see. To combat it, work with employees to ensure they know how to manage their time appropriately.
As HR pros, we’re always trying to help, and we rarely step away and reset. It’s a hard reality, but we have to get used to stepping away—some things can wait until tomorrow. If we don’t enforce work-life balance (and in some cases, this is what’s required), we will lose our highest achievers.
In some cases, that means we need to address managers who don’t take responsibility for their teams. As a manager, one should lead by example and lend a helping hand when the workload is at its peak! A manager isn’t just there to make the rules and reinforce them—they are to ensure they are always acting as a team member—not just a superior but a colleague working alongside their team! I’ve witnessed managers who believe they don’t have to pick up or assist in their team’s work, and this is a quick way to dissolve the mental health of your team. In fact, it’s a manager’s responsibility to pitch in as much as is needed—managers should be able to do the jobs of their employees.
5. Squash office politics.
This is a tough one. In HR, we accept people for who they are, and we know as adults you don’t need to engage in office politics. By addressing the negativity in the workplace it reinforces that the organization doesn’t tolerate bullying, discrimination or any other similar behaviors. This can help the morale which in return can improve the mental health and productivity of those who are feeling burnout!
6. Get help from a PEO.
As a one-person HR team, or even a group of HR professionals, taking steps to prevent burnout can feel like one more thing to add to your to-do list. Unfortunately, you don’t have the luxury of time when employees already feel stretched thin.
If you’re overwhelmed by these obstacles, consider a PEO like GenesisHR. Let us be your go-to. As coemployers, that’s what sets us apart from an internal HR team: Our services help prevent burnout for your entire organization—including the HR pros on your team. We’ll take on the burdens you don’t have time or expertise to handle. We offer mental and emotional check-ins, communicating, workload assessments and reassignments, and more. We can also take a lot of HR issues off your plate, whether they’re related to payroll, compliance, benefits, or anything else in the HR world.
We’re confident we can help your HR team—and your whole organization. If you’re looking for experts who know HR inside and out, talk to our team—we’d love to show you the benefits of partnering with us.
Or, if you’re not quite ready to talk to us, but you’re curious to learn more about PEOs and GenesisHR in particular, check out our ebook, Everything You Need To Know About PEOs!