Skip to main content

Five Practical Steps for Fighting HR Burnout

Susmita Paul, Senior Human Resources Manager January 11, 2023

Human Resources professionals know the impact of stress and exhaustion on employee wellness and productivity, with record numbers of workers reporting feeling burned out. Whatever the root causes–whether work, home, or a combination–these feelings of being overwhelmed and emotionally drained can lead to lower workplace productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher turnover.

It often falls on HR to help guide employees to resources that help them reduce stress, prevent burnout, and better manage their mental and emotional health. Yet it’s too easy for HR pros to neglect their own well-being amid workplace challenges like rampant resignations, a hyper-competitive labor market, and an increasingly complex benefits ecosystem. 

But just as flight attendants instruct passengers to put on their own oxygen masks in an emergency so they can better help those around them, HR professionals need to take steps to protect themselves from the real threat of burnout.

HR Burnout is on the Rise

There’s a strong correlation between growing employee burnout and rising stress in HR departments. Burnout can lead to workplace performance issues, inadequate staffing, and poor performance, creating additional work for already overloaded HR teams. This vicious cycle fuels greater burnout among HR professionals, and the numbers reflect that. A recent study conducted by Workvivo found that 98% of HR professionals are burned out, with 78% considering jumping ship. 

This is no surprise as uncertainty and workloads continue to climb. In an SHRM article, HR professionals cite the pressure of moving employees to a virtual work environment, navigating a return to the office, and off-boarding and recruitment in the midst of the Great Resignation as just some of the reasons they’ve experienced burnout.

And it’s not just individuals who are experiencing burnout. Whole teams are affected as they take on more projects and responsibilities with fewer resources to do the job. With so much work, it’s no wonder HR is often overwhelmed.

Tips for Fighting HR Burnout

The good news is, there are several ways HR can recharge and prevent fatigue from taking hold. 

  • Off means off! It’s tempting to check email when on vacation or over the weekend. How many of us have seen a work email come in after hours or on off days and immediately jump to review or respond? It’s important to enforce work/life boundaries to give yourself the chance to unplug and recharge. If you never fully unplug, the effects of work stress and pressure can build up until you’re overwhelmed and exhausted. Just as you need a good night’s sleep to be at your best, you need time off the clock that’s completely devoted to family, friends, and self-care.
  • Pencil in time for fresh air or relaxation. It’s common knowledge that spending time outdoors is good for your health, so make time in your schedule to go for a walk or take a break outside. Even 30 minutes or an hour spent outdoors or doing an activity you enjoy can relieve stress and anxiety, so take the time to do what helps you relax, whether exercising, baking, reading, or napping.
  • Switch up your surroundings. Sometimes just working from a different environment eases stress and helps you focus. Move to another part of the house or office, work outside, or change your desk décor. If you can work remotely, go all-out by working from a different location for a week, whether a summer house, a vacation rental, or simply a friend or family member’s place. You’ll be amazed at how freeing it is to work from a location that doesn’t have lingering reminders of chores you need to complete.
  • Nourish the right connections. Spending time with others who help you unwind can help combat burnout. Reach out to family, friends, trusted colleagues, and therapists to connect and build yourself a strong support network. Meet up for coffee or lunch, plan a happy hour with a “no-work-talk” rule, or schedule regular sessions with a mental health professional. 
  • Use your benefits. You’re always encouraging employees to use their benefits as an HR professional. But do you practice what you preach? Be sure you’re taking full advantage of available benefits that can reduce stress and help prevent burnout, such as using all your time off, seeking out EAP services, and accessing mental health programs and resources.

Let Technology Ease the Load

When it comes to reducing burnout, it’s crucial to understand how technology can help. With so many HR pros attributing their burnout to being overworked, a platform that automates employee communications and frees up HR resources to focus on other projects can be a powerful way to reduce HR stress. Consider a solution that gives employees easy access to their benefits, and provides personalized outreach related to benefits, onboarding, professional development, offboarding, and open enrollment all from one place. The right platform can also help reduce burnout among all employees by sharing reminders to take time off and providing information on Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and other mental health resources.

HR pros are often hard-wired to put the needs of others first. But the best thing you can do for your company and its workers is focus on your wellness and find ways to reduce on-the-job stress. By avoiding burnout and prioritizing your physical and emotional health, you can be the best–and most productive–version of yourself. And that’s a win for everyone.