How To Avoid HR Burnout While Keeping Employees Happy

HR Burnout

With the seismic shift the working landscape has gone through in recent years, we've been hearing more and more about the risks of employee burnout: on the one hand, the increasing adoption of remote and hybrid working practices can promote a better work-life balance and a reduction in work-related fatigue, while on the other, 41% of remote workers say they feel stressed “always” or “most of the time”, likely taking less time off from work and experiencing a blurring of the lines between work and home life.

One thing we often forget when talking about employee burnout, however, is that HR professionals are employees too. They may be viewed as the ones responsible for ensuring company employees are happy in their roles, but they too can feel the pressure of tackling mounting to-do lists or jumping from meeting to meeting with little time to pause for thought in between — just like everyone else in the business.

As an HR professional, then, it's just as important that you prioritize your own employee happiness as that of others — perhaps even more so — and take steps to reduce the risk of burnout. How can you do this? Read on, as we explore the best burnout-proof approaches for those working in HR.

Set clear boundaries for yourself (and others)

The first (and most important) step in recognizing and preventing burnout is establishing where your boundaries lie. If you have no way of determining what you do and don't consider acceptable — saying “yes” to tasks when you're already overstretched, responding to messages outside of “normal” working hours, frequently clocking up overtime, for example — you're likely to sleepwalk into burnout before you realize it.

It's also important that other people in the business know where you draw the line. You might be tempted to respond to an email from a colleague at 8pm, for example (you know the answer to their question, it'll take two minutes to reply — what's the harm?), but you risk setting a precedent that can be hard to double back from: doing it once might seem innocuous enough, but that person (and others) may subsequently expect you to respond to emails 24/7.

If you feel that others are taking advantage of your cooperative nature, you always have the right to politely push back — but that might be more difficult if your tendency is to be bend-over-backwards accommodating. Instead, remember that few things HR-related are genuine emergencies (no matter how “urgent” someone tries to convince you their request is) and most things can wait until you're back at your desk the following morning.

Separate your work life from your home life

Like many of today's workforce, a significant number of HR professionals likely do most of their work at home — or at least, at a location outside of a dedicated company HQ. And while the perceived benefits of remote work have been covered ad nauseam, there are potential downsides, too: as we alluded to in this article's opening, one of those is that it can be more difficult to differentiate between your personal and professional life, with the barriers increasingly loosening.

When your home and “office” space are one and the same, for instance — particularly plausible if you have limited room — then this theoretically makes switching off at the end of each working day more of a challenge. Furthermore, since you're already at home and there's no commute to signal that it's clocking-off time, you may often find yourself finishing off work-related tasks when you should really be enjoying your free time.

One solution? Create a dedicated workspace that's as separate as possible from your main living (or sleeping) area, even if that simply means using a room divider to split the two. Another? At the close of each working day (and at the start too, if you're an early riser), get up and go for a walk: convince yourself that your day includes a “commute”, and use this time to shift your brain from work mode to me-time mode, or vice versa.

Look for ways to streamline your workload

If you're at risk of (or already experiencing) burnout, it might be due to having one too many drawn-out, energy-sapping tasks on your to-do list. And while many of these responsibilities may be an unavoidable part of the day job, it's likely that at least some of them can be simplified, consolidated, or eradicated altogether. To reduce the time spent on inessential or onerous tasks, consider the following:

  • Only schedule (or attend) meetings where necessary. Meetings can eat up several hours in the day, and often you'll find that an email or Slack message would have sufficed anyway. Consider whether every meeting is a productive use of your time, and don't be afraid to decline invites if you feel your attendance is non-critical.
  • Make use of software solutions. From recruitment to time management, there are myriad software tools that can systemize manual HR processes. If one of your responsibilities is managing contractor relations, for example, consider using the contractor management service by Remote to streamline onboarding and invoicing.
  • Don't be afraid to delegate. Where you're in a position to — and where your workload requires it — delegate tasks to other team members of departments, providing they have the capacity to support you. Alternatively, split lengthy, time-intensive tasks with others so you can share the workload.

Keep your workday as varied as possible

The world of HR is complex and varied, but that doesn't mean you won't sometimes find yourself bogged-down with repetitive tasks. However, spending excessive time on monotonous workloads is likely to stifle your productivity, while repetitive work may also increase psychosocial load and introduce stress-related symptoms such as fatigue, increased blood pressure, and difficulty getting to sleep.

While you may not have complete freedom to define the makeup of your own working day — some tasks may have very specific deadlines, for example — you should try where feasible to introduce as much variety as possible into your workload. If a burdensome yet non-urgent task is causing your concentration to fray and your motivation to deteriorate, consider parking it for the afternoon and switching to something more engaging and/or less taxing.

It's also a good idea to plan your workday ahead of time, ensuring that you set yourself a variety of tasks to complete and you don't end up spending your entire day combating one backbreaking task (unless business needs dictate otherwise, of course). Think about spacing meetings out, too: rather than scheduling back-to-back video calls, try to keep to a maximum of 2 or 3 each day to prevent so-called “Zoom fatigue”.

HR professionals spend so much of their time ensuring that others feel engaged and satisfied in their work that they can often forget to do the same for themselves, but they're just as much at risk of experiencing burnout as the rest of us. If you work in HR, remember that it's important to set boundaries, prioritize your free time, streamline your workload wherever possible, and keep your workday varied to avoid succumbing to burnout.