Stress from the COVID-19 pandemic and a shift to hybrid work. The quiet recession and uncertain financial conditions. A constant increase in ‘quiet quitting.' If you're in HR, the list of challenges you've likely had to deal with has been long and ruthless. HR burnout is very real, and if a business isn’t looking after its foundational talent, it can’t build people processes that will last.
In this article, we’ll share tips on how you can better manage HR stress and avoid burnout before it's too late.
HR Burnout: Why it Needs Immediate Attention
A whopping 98% of HR professionals report being burned out. HR has a constant juggling act of needing to empathize with employees while keeping business needs as a priority. This mental obligation is taking its toll on HRs’ performance, and their emotional well-being.
The pandemic only escalated the pressure as teams were forced to pivot, develop new working cultures and operations, and—in some cases—let go of team members. All of these tasks fall to the HR department. We spoke to Sebastian Ibarra, People Operations Manager (EU) at Kodify Media Group, and Anja Sejfic, HR Business Partner at Rinkel.com, about why HR practitioners are suffering from workplace burnout now more than ever.
“Fresh out of dealing with a pandemic we suddenly had to deal with people re-evaluating their careers and jumping ship. We tried our best with salary increases, new perks, reinforcing culture but ultimately if someone’s mind is made up, they were gone.“ - Sebastian Ibarra
HR departments could barely catch their breath after dealing with the pandemic before the Great Resignation started to impact virtually every industry. And amid all of this turmoil, economic uncertainties demanded that they keep budgets tight.
“In the pandemic, our workload shot up, people were being let go, needed emotional support, and HR suffered with an ever-fluctuating higher workload. Yet, it still wasn’t easy to justify expanding the team—especially in such unprecedented times.” - Anja Sejfic
HR teams look after the heart and soul of your organization: its people. So when they're dealing with burnout or insurmountable challenges themselves, it can have a domino effect on the entire organization. Follow these five tips to helplead your HR team out of burnout, reignite lost motivation, and feel more balanced.
5 Tips to Avoid HR Burnout at Your Organization
1. Plan ahead
One surefire way to lift some weight off the shoulders of HR professionals is by year-in-advance planning, especially when it comes to the high stress-inducing open enrollment season. This huge undertaking, where employees get to make changes and choose which benefits they want to select, is often seen as "crunch time" for HR, and it's become even more challenging when teams are remote.
Breaking down this gargantuan task into bite-sized tasks throughout the year will lift the burden on everyone. And it's definitely something HR wants to get right—considering how volatile the job market is, open enrollment is not only an opportunity for employees to reevaluate their benefits, but a way HR can try to increase retention by making benefits more publicized and meaningful.
2. Up your communication
Abundant communication is always better than assuming people can read your minds—and that should be a two-way street between HR teams and other departments. Sebastian dives in:
“Communicate. With your team, with your managers, with your colleagues. Don’t let people make their own assumptions as normally when we make assumptions they’re wrong, and a small chat can solve all the overthinking we tend to do!” - Sebastian Ibarra
Ask fellow HR colleagues what they need help with, where they feel most stressed, and what you can do to help. And when it comes to speaking to other departments or your own supervisor, don't be afraid to raise issues and speak candidly. Communicate your challenges, fears, and what you need to do your job well without being burned out.
3. Lean on tried and true wellbeing apps
Offering access to mindfulness apps like Headspace & Oliva is a great gateway to supporting your team’s mental health and employee wellbeing efforts. Workplace support in today’s world needs to be on the go—and better yet if it’s on our phones. Try to adopt tools that look after your HR teams, no matter where they live or choose to work.
Headspace: Helps employees meditate, sleep, focus, move, and start their day the right way.
Oliva: Employee mental wellbeing platform that combines therapy courses, coaching, mental fitness classes, and more.
We asked Oliva’s Head of Talent Acquisition, Bridie Slater, who explained why companies should be considering tech options like these to help address HR burnout—a phenomenon that's often compounded by being the ones everyone else turns to with their problems.
"Having a confidential external platform where you can get support for not just things you are coping with but also the stress of knowing other people's struggles can be a game-changer in keeping your boundaries, learning new tools and avoiding burnout.” - Bridie Slater
4. Automate redundant tasks
It’s time to work smarter, not harder. Your HR teams already have enough on their plate—look for ways you can delegate some of that workload, either to other employees or by implementing tools, templates, and even AI to help automate workflows. Eliminate or minimize repetitive tasks so your team can focus on what really matters.
Are there steps in the employee onboarding or offboarding process, for example, that could be streamlined or automated? Is there a way to better manage calendars or schedule meetings? Find these areas for improvement and get to work streamlining things to be as simple and painless as possible.
5. Follow your own advice
Anja jumps in and stresses the importance of following your own advice as an HR professional:
“When colleagues come to you with symptoms of burnout, or issues, we usually tell them to take it easy, take some time off, we speak with their manager and reassess their workload, or mix up the flexibility of their schedule. Anything that we tell others, we usually forget to do ourselves.” - Anja Sejfic
If you're feeling the symptoms of impending burnout, speak up. Take time off. Reassess what you can do to simplify your daily tasks, whether that's delegating more to others, advocating for additional resources, or more frequent check-ins with your manager or supervisor for increased visibility into your challenges. It's critical that you keep other people in the loop about the stress you're facing so they can help problem solve with you and get you back on your feet. Remember: you deserve the same care you extend to everybody else!
Take care of yourself so you can better care for others
HR teams and individual practitioners are essential for all teams—no matter their size or function. They look after the heart of any business, ensuring people are happy and workforces are healthy. Yet, it’s impossible to expect them to do great work if they don't have a healthy work-life balance in their own day-to-day lives. Try implementing these strategies at your organization to help manage stress and avoid the ever-present threat of HR burnout.
A special thanks goes to our contributors, Sebastian Ibarra, Anja Sejfic, and Bridie Slater for taking the time to share their experiences and thoughts with us.