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Aug 24, 2022

You probably know it already: HR professionals are great at looking after other people’s health and wellbeing. But when it comes to looking after their own, working long hours and feeling burned out are a real danger.

In fact, according to an article in Forbes recently, one study revealed a whopping 98% of HR professionals are burned out. Yep, that’s nearly all of you!

So what can HR professionals do to help themselves? We asked experienced people managers and HR leaders exactly this question.

Below are ten of their best ideas – from setting boundaries, to staying aware of your personal warning flags.

We hope you find plenty of tips to prevent burnout as you carry out your day-to-day HR responsibilities:

1) Set boundaries

“Setting boundaries starts with identifying your priorities and what are your non-negotiables. Then, create a plan to incorporate those priorities into your daily life. Sometimes, we think this is an all-or-nothing approach, which can make it seem impossible, but you can start small. For example, if dinnertime is the most important time for your family, make a plan to be home for dinner two nights a week. Communicate the plan to your coworkers and boss in advance so that they are aware that you will be leaving work by a certain time. The most important thing about these new boundaries is sticking to them, because the minute you back down on your priority, it will be really hard to enforce it going forward.”

– Stephanie Anderson, VP of engagement, myPersona

2) Prioritize time and effort effectively

“Part of the solution is in HR’s own hands; namely effective prioritization. This means stop saying ‘yes’ to every request made of you. HR needs to prioritize its time and effort more effectively, instead of trying to resolve every operational puzzle that emerges. The focus must be on resolving issues that seriously impact the bottom line or on issues that cannot be resolved by line managers themselves. Too often lack of management capability is covered up by HR resolving the issue. Unless a focused approach is taken HR ends up providing ‘one size fits all’ solutions to every retention problem.”

– Dave Millner, consulting partner, HR Curator

3) Embrace new technologies to lighten the workload

“I find that many HR professionals burn out more rapidly because they wear more than just their “HR” hat. We can end up becoming the payroll specialist, the employee relations manager, crisis communications manager, IT manager etc. – and sometimes we can be all these people in just a single day. With all these potential responsibilities, it’s critical to focus on automating work wherever and whenever we can. I’ve leaned heavily on tools such as Zapier, for general automation management; Lattice for automating employee engagement/performance management and even Slack, where you can create custom workflow automations. There has been incredible progression in HR technology in the past two years alone, so choosing to lean into new innovations and automations can help lighten the overall workload.”

– Nicole Stines, senior people operations manager, Proton.ai

4) Employ a psychologist for the organization

“Since the 1990s, I’ve witnessed many HR people burn out, and the problem has only accelerated in the last couple of years. Due to the giving nature of many HR people, they sometimes end up neglecting themselves. The most effective method to help prevent (or at least minimize) burnout before issues become too severe is to employ an organizational psychologist within OD or have an outside consultant check-in with HR staff on a quarterly basis. This person will assess and make action plans that are customized to the individual staff member.”

– Chez Cristiano, global VP of organizational development (OD) & HR at People Strategy Partners, LLC

5) Create a safe refuge

“Now, more than ever, HR professionals are battling the constant threat of burnout and/or trying to meaningfully recover from it. I have found it to be extraordinarily helpful for each HR professional to have some sort of refuge where the HR professional can speak openly and honestly, without concern of breaching HR confidentiality or having to fear judgment (for instance, not having all the answers and/or feeling overwhelmed, etc.). We all like to display a flawless, professional, and never-weathered avatar to our colleagues. But truly, we all need a safe place to let down our guard. Moreover, not everyone works within a large HR team. At times colleagues outside the business are a person of refuge. Bottom line: HR pros need to have at least one person to fall back on or, I feel, burnout is far more likely.”

– Patrick Proctor, vice president, human resources, Hanna Andersson

6) Structure burnout prevention into the working day

“Managers must understand that burnout is highly contextual, and that employee emotional health must be supported both on- and off the job. Structuring burnout prevention into the workday demonstrates that a workplace is sincere in its commitment to employee sustainability. Employers can support systemic burnout prevention by sponsoring mental health benefits, like therapy, that individuals can use in off-hours, but by also investing in burnout prevention that reaches the entire team during the workday. Hosting all-hands-on-deck emotional wellness events and funding employee resource groups are great ways to start. Most importantly, workplaces must move away from crisis-driven responses towards normalizing burnout prevention by incentivizing the use of mental health days, adapted work schedules, integrated wellness routines, and other effective strategies. Making burnout prevention part of the workday helps reduce stigma, improves performance, and makes employees feel more supported.”

– Anna Lindberg Cedar, founder and burnout prevention hacker, Workshops For Real Life

7) Seek professional support for recovery

“Being in an HR role typically demonstrates high empathy and people orientation. But as a consequence of crisis management, many HR professionals have also taken on the role of being a therapist. This is not sustainable. Find a support professional to support you and your team’s recovery, especially if anyone is beyond the point of no return. Your primary goal in the recovery process is self-regulation. That means identifying energy-draining habits, whether they’re behaviors, situations, people, or emotional triggers. Then begin the process to liberate mental and emotional bandwidth.”

– Duncan So, executive director, The Burnout Clinic

8) Try meditation

“Meditation through breath work is a simple and effective technique to help combat and prevent burnout. Taking five minutes a day to focus on your breathe-in and breathe-out patterns without distractions can help calm you and improve your mood. Research has shown that people who practice meditation on a daily basis are more productive and efficient at work. Sit in a quiet room with your eyes closed and slowly take deep breaths in and out and feel your diaphragm rising. This can help improve how you and your team show up at work and improve your engagement.”

– Puja Aggarwal, neurologist/neuroscientist, Zenful Brain Coaching

9) Find your passion

“It is too common for HR professionals to become demoralized with their daily duties and stressors. If not resolved, these stressors become chronic, they eventually allow burnout to set in. Finding (or re-finding) your professional passion and keeping that in mind as you deal with daily challenges can help to avoid becoming too focused on short-term stressors that lead to longer-term burnout.

– Dr. Jeff Comer (doctor of psychology (stress management and burnout)

10) Stay aware of your personal warning flags

“I have discovered that one of the most helpful things to get ahead of burnout is to deepen awareness of your personal warning flags. This awareness can help you take a more strategic approach to relief and work as a warning system to mitigate future episodes. A great way to get started is by doing a monthly temperature check. This journaling exercise is a quick assessment of your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.”

– Erayna Sargent, CEO, Hooky Wellness

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