In the modern workplace, HR plays a pivotal role in designing processes and policies aimed at promoting positive employee wellbeing. HR departments are tasked with reacting to existing issues as well as proactively addressing potential problems before they arise, especially when a staggering 60 per cent of employees report feeling stressed at work.
However, this task can be daunting, especially in organisations with diverse teams, units and employees. In an ever-evolving work environment with shifting expectations, rising cost pressures and increasing demands, HR professionals often find themselves overwhelmed and burnt out.
HR professionals are the custodians of an organisation's most valuable asset – its people. They are responsible for maintaining a harmonious work environment, addressing grievances and ensuring employees are productive and happy. However, it's a challenging balancing act that can take a toll on HR departments. According to recent statistics, 36 per cent of HR teams feel burnt out from their caregiving responsibilities and the same proportion are feeling overwhelmed by increasing responsibilities.
This alarming trend underscores the urgency for organisations to safeguard those who support the wider workforce. Organisational leaders can play a crucial role in encouraging HR to establish boundaries and detach from their job at the end of each day. Promoting self care, emotional reflection and personal goal setting within the HR department can help create a healthier and more sustainable work environment.
Enabling through self care
The first step for HR departments and representatives is to recognise and understand that an empty sack can't stand; they need to be able to help and protect themselves before they can successfully do so for others.
The HR function should regularly check in and monitor their own mental wellbeing. They can also build and periodically tap into their mental health toolkit by creating a bank of positive mental health activities and access resources provided by the CIPD members’ hub. And even though it can be a tricky task, they need to ensure that they are strict on setting boundaries and are unapologetic about putting aside recharge time. By putting their needs first and in equal measures to those of other employees, HR will help employees avoid burnout and safeguard their wellbeing.
Embracing technological solutions
HR should also tap into some of the emerging, simple-yet-effective technological solutions to focus on employee wellbeing across the lifecycle.
Biometric wearables can help to measure employee mood or sentiment. By analysing this data, HR professionals can gain insights into employees' emotional wellbeing and identify trends to help prevent burnout over time. Mindfulness apps have gained popularity when offering guided meditation and relaxation techniques to reduce and manage stress and improve sleep.
An increasing number of employee assistance programmes are also becoming digitised, meaning employees can seek help and support 24/7, even outside of traditional working hours. By using technological solutions, HR teams can alleviate the pressure of delivering in-house tailored solutions and target mental wellbeing from multiple angles.
Endorsing through leadership
Good leadership is vital in ensuring HR teams listen to their own recommendations. A PA Consulting report, A new way to lead, revealed kindness as one of the most powerful ways for leaders to respond to the challenges before them. And it should not be seen as a ‘fluffy’ suggestion; research has revealed that employees are twice as likely to say their company is performing well financially when leaders are kind.
Leadership teams need to keep abreast of the specific challenges that the HR team faces. They should remind their HR representatives that they have access to the same opportunities and resources as the rest of the organisation and that they should make the most of them.
They need to be given the time and resources to engage with crucial health benefits, focus on personal development opportunities and take general downtime. Finally, leaders should consider HR representatives as partners rather than internal service providers. They need to work collaboratively rather than just cooperatively and towards outcomes rather than merely a long shopping list of tasks to be completed.
In combination, these tactics can help reduce burnout in an HR department while also helping to drive a sense of belonging and value for professionals within the organisation.
HR professionals shoulder a significant responsibility in promoting employee wellbeing within organisations. Their role encompasses not only reacting to existing challenges but also proactively addressing potential issues. However, this balancing act can take a toll on HR teams, leading to burnout, but this can be overcome by taking a few simple steps that prioritise self care, establish boundaries and seek emotional reflection.
Sahadev Joshi and Laura Scott are people and change experts at PA Consulting