In parts one and two of our three-part breakdown of HR burnout, we’ve focused on many aspects of the additional work and logistical issues that COVID 19 has introduced into the workdays of HR teams internationally. However, the most pressing issue that has come into play in the last 19 months is how this additional workload, along with the daily stress of living through a world-wide pandemic, has affected the mental health of work teams as a whole, and specifically the emotional toll that it has taken on HR leaders. In this blog we’ll be exploring what we can do with this knowledge, how HR leaders can best support their employees and how employers can best support their HR teams through these unprecedented times.
Caring for Others’ Mental Health – The Emotional Toll
It became evident very quickly into 2020 that with all of the stress of the pandemic being introduced, organizations all over the world were going to need to re-evaluate and re-prioritize their company-wide mental health resources and support system. For many employers, this may have even been the first time that they had considered this element of their employee benefits. The first step in addressing this for many companies was to task their HR team with reviewing their existing mental health support systems as well as introducing new resources for their employees. While this has become an increasingly important assignment over the course of the last nearing two years, for many HR leaders this was the first of many issues that became incredibly pressing, seemingly overnight. This, along with the additional workload mentioned in parts one and two of our HR burnout series, has led to HR professionals feeling as though they have not had the time to properly take advantage of these mental health related benefits and resources that they, themselves have worked so hard on. Because of this, the impact of the pandemic has weighed even heavier on their mental health.
Numerous studies have shown the negative effects that the pandemic has had on mental health for individuals all around the globe, but when you factor in extreme stress and pressure at work on top of that, it gives an entirely new meaning to the term “burnout”. This has been the case for countless employees internationally and rings especially true for HR professionals. Though we’ve touched on the additional workload of HR teams, we haven’t yet discussed one of the most profound aspects that working through a pandemic has unleashed onto them – the emotional toll. Re-analyzing benefits packages to help their fellow employees through difficult times, introducing new policies and procedures to help protect themselves and fellow staff members, performing countless lay-offs and completing offboarding procedures, sometimes for members of their own department – all of this has taken an enormous amount of emotional energy for HR teams. In addition, they may have had to deal with co-workers and employees becoming ill or dealing with the loss of a family member. Being that it is often also the responsibility of the HR department to address work absences and offer resources to employees who may be dealing with grief in their personal lives, this can have a major impact on the metal heath of an HR leader.
As previously revealed in part one of this series, acting as the messenger between employers and employees is another element of the average HR workday that has become even more emotionally taxing over the course of the COVID-19 outbreak. Questions of health and safety are arising daily, and emotions have been at an all-time high, leading to many intense conversations being held in the office, often led by the HR department. Additionally, issues of staffing (lay-offs, offboarding, re-hiring some employees who had been let go, and bringing on new hires) have also proven to become even more emotionally strenuous during the past 19 months. Even during “normal” times, staffing is one of the most challenging parts of an HR professional’s workload but during a world-wide pandemic when issues of employment have become increasingly complicated, it’s not difficult to see how staffing could become an intense and emotionally draining assignment.
Did you know that Career Contacts has designated consultants who specialise in health and safety? These are not ‘side of desk’ responsibilities and we are providing our clients with the expertise they need.
Where to go from here? – The HR Balancing Act
So how can HR professionals ensure that they are continuing to provide the best possible care for their employees while accounting for their own burnout? The answer is unfortunately not cut and dry, but the basic first step begins with balance. Though it’s easier said than done of course, HR leaders globally are deciding that the best next course of action for their teams is to strike a delicate balance within caring for their employees, completing their daily list of actionable assignments, and caring for themselves. Creating a weekly detailed list of priorities, while it sounds like this would be one more task on top of everything else, is actually one of the tips that experts have given to strategize during highly stressful times. Constructing a full overview of the days ahead will allow for a more complete picture of where the most energy should be put today and where it can be preserved or carry over to a new day.
With all of the amazing technology at our finger tips, Career Contacts has partnered with exceptional companies that support HR departments in staying organized, equitable and accountable to the work being done.
How Employers Can Support Their HR Teams
When you look at their position as a whole, one of the primary duties of the HR team is to care for the needs of their employees. This in return means that many HR leaders feel as though they are hardwired to care for others before they care for themselves. Since the beginning of the pandemic, HR professionals have frequently come forward to express that because of their additional workload in caring for employees, and lack of sufficient time, they have been largely neglecting their own self-care. A burned-out HR department is not only destructive to the morale of the HR team themselves, but this can also create a domino-like impact on the entire company where no one’s mental health needs are being properly and adequately met. This all being said, what can employers be doing to fend off burnout and ensure that their HR team is well taken care of?
- Provide them with enough back-up
According to HR leaders, the first priority is to make sure that they have enough back up, i.e. enough people on their team to help balance the workload. Though finding qualified candidates is a feat in and of itself, the pressure of having to bear the brunt of all of the work and emotional elements that have been mentioned in this series is far too big of a burden on a department that is short-staffed. If your HR department is in need of some additional help in finding fellow HR professionals, consider outsourcing some of this work to an employment agency – Career Contacts is always ready to assist!
2. Listen to your team
The pandemic has created the consistent need for new and intimidating conversations between staff and HR leaders, as well as between HR leaders and employees. Instead of making decisions solely on their own, employers are urged to consider the feelings, thoughts, and opinions of both their HR team as well as their employees. Having an open-door policy and taking into consideration the questions, comments, and concerns of your staff before making decisions that impact their lives is always strongly recommended and is even more important in light of the effects of the pandemic. Listening to your team also means keeping an open mind when your HR leaders need time to take a break and step away for their own mental health.
3. Practice what is being preached
Now more than ever, prioritizing mental health and tapping into mental health resources should not only be easily accessible, but perhaps most importantly, strongly encouraged and demonstrated from the top down. Employers are implored to demonstrate healthy boundaries and work-life balance and to be models to their team of everything that entails. Leading by example and providing your staff with the encouragement to come forward when they need a day off is essential and can go a long way in the battle of the burnout.
While HR burnout has become an increasingly prevalent issue in today’s workplace, with the use of consistent, open communication, teamwork, and readily accessible mental health breaks and resources, there is hope for a brighter future in which HR professionals can combat the burnout and achieve a healthy work-life-balance.