Has your mental health has hit an all-time low, and you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands? Are you feeling like your existence is relegated to administrative task?
Do you find yourself feeling challenged and unmotivated by the lack of prioritization of the HR function and yourself, to a degree?
Have you lost interest in your work? Perhaps you have experienced a decrease in your creativity or lack of good judgment; and irritability and agitation have become your default responses to internal clients, and colleagues? How about a crying spell or two and a scratchy throat for good measure?
Don’t panic – you are not alone.
In fact, you are experiencing the same symptoms as countless other HR professionals. The cause? A figurative virus most recently dubbed ‘HR burnout‘, which is steadily rising to pandemic proportions.
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine, but the good news is no fatalities have been reported, to date.
The workload of HR leaders and their teams has exponentially increased during the past two years as the world has been gripped by a pandemic unlike any other.
HR leaders, and their teams became ‘essential staff’, and were tasked with adapting our workplaces, policies, and benefits to support their organization’s human capital through school closures, reduced work hours, external stressors impacting their work, including illness and death.
We were charged with leading our organization’s efforts on mental health improvements to combat new challenges, like social isolation, Zoom fatigue, survivors’ remorse, grief, childcare, adult care, a reduction to their household income, and any number of other issues that were suddenly a part of an employee’s new reality.
HR professionals supported their organizations through uncharted territory, as they were also learning to navigate unfamiliar terrain because of the pandemic, while themselves struggling with many of the same issues as the rest of the organization, yet unable to prioritize their own health and wellbeing.
After two years of supporting organizations in meeting their objectives in remote working environments, struggling to maintain employee morale, and removing barriers to employees doing their best work, burnout among HR professionals has become not only real but especially acute.
What makes HR burnout especially acute?
HR is one of the few departments that are accountable to everyone in an organization, from employees to senior leadership.
On a good day, pre-pandemic, HR departments were already struggling to cope with increasing demands. COVID-19 only added fuel to the fire.
As the world changed with the pandemic, so did our work environments; and the future of organizations depended on how quickly and efficiently they transformed which required the implementation of new policies and processes.
How quickly organizations were able to adapt depended upon how quickly and efficiently their HR teams were able to learn and execute, often simultaneously.
Movements called the ‘Great Resignation‘ were born and by 2021 HR leaders were being forced to consider structural changes to meet the demands of the organization as talent acquisition teams clamored for the same shrinking talent pool while also trying to manage rising retention levels and backfilling of key roles.
According to Workivo, an Ireland-based workplace communication app used to survey over 500 HR professionals across the United States and the United Kingdom, 98% of HR professionals are fatigued and feel under pressure 94% felt overwhelmed, while only 29% or those surveyed felt that their work is valued by their organization.
If that isn’t enough, more HR leaders than ever are reporting being under-resourced, to the extent that they don’t have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs effectively. If there was ever a time to promote self-care, this would be it.
What is an HR professional to do?
Get back to basics, It’s just that simple.
Pause and take time to consider what contributes to your job satisfaction, or lack thereof, and how to approach your work differently. HR professionals are adept at adapting every other environment to suit the everyone’s needs except their own.
Ignite the healing process with a few simple changes:
- Understand compassion fatigue. Over the past two years we have experienced employees at their most extreme emotional low, one after the other. Take time to understand the roles compassion fatigue plays in our work and be cognizant of your triggers. Identifying it in the moment will help you better manage its impact.
- Establish boundaries. In the height of the pandemic everything and everyone needed immediate answers and attention from HR. In our desire to serve we may have even contributed to the expectation that HR will be available 24/7. The reality is, there are very few HR emergencies. Start creating a new reality and be intentional about your boundaries. If your own mental health is not stable, you’re doing your organization and your colleagues a disservice.
- Admit to the burnout and be transparent about your need for support. Whether you are working remotely, in the office or hybrid, unplug from the work free of guilt. Give your burnout the respect and the attention that it deserves. It’s not your imagination, and there is no nobility in persevering. In the same spirit that you advise employees to take the time they need, take your own advice. It doesn’t matter if it’s a vacation or couple of sick days to rejuvenate, take them! No HR professional wants to admit to burnout but it’s better to manage it before it manages you.
Change is constant in the HR arena; and the expectations of HR teams are constantly evolving. Burnout is neither isolated nor an indictment of one’s abilities, it’s inevitable and becoming an issue for many HR professionals.
The good news is that resources are rapidly emerging to support you in managing it.