HR professionals are not immune to stress

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Key takeaways

HR pros who delegate, take advantage of available resources, and seek the help of vendors can mitigate stress levels.

Since the onset of pandemic-related changes in the workplace over the past two years, companies have been reporting heightened stress and anxiety among employees. Overwhelmingly, the responsibility for monitoring and responding to this has been placed on the shoulders of HR professionals. As a result, a recent survey of HR practitioners showed that 42% of teams are struggling under the weight of increased workload and responsibilities. And Forbes reported that 97% of individual respondents said they felt emotionally fatigued from work over the past year.

How did we get here?

In the early days of the pandemic, employers faced uncertainties about the economic climate and their ability to continue doing business as before. During this time, HR teams were tasked with an extended period of conducting layoffs, furloughs and dealing with the emotional fallout of stressful conversations with affected employees.

Immediately following these workforce reductions, was an increased need for communications to an audience of newly remote employees. The challenge of assessing needs and providing empathetic responses again landed in the HR department, where most teams adopted an all-hands-on-deck approach to handling and communicating issues. Everything from technology access to home office equipment and supplies were frequently funneled through the HR team.

Returning, then resigning

Next came the push for employees to return to the office and the accompanying development of necessary safety protocols. Following regularly updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), companies worked to establish guidelines for mask-wearing and social-distancing to prevent COVID-19 transmission. Differing state and local mandates added to the complexity of managing these protocols for multi-state employers.

As if all of that wasn’t enough to topple the most fortified HR teams, the Great Resignation has delivered a crushing blow for companies. Droves of employees are opting to leave their jobs for new opportunities or for the freedoms of a different lifestyle, creating urgent hiring challenges amidst “talent wars” in almost every industry. The effect on HR? Most teams report that they’re under-resourced and under great pressure to manage the constant flow of onboarding and terminations.

There is some good news though. Because of the current challenges in attracting and retaining talent, the job market is dictating changes which HR professionals have long advocated for, including provisions for flexible schedules, remote work, increased care benefits and competitive compensation. The emotional impact of the pandemic has also created a demand for having conversations that were previously avoided. Now we’re communicating more often and empathetically about mental health concerns and employee needs related to family and self-care.

What can be done?

While it’s too soon to predict a lessening in workload expectations for HR professionals, there are ways for HR teams to manage stress levels.

  • Take your own advice. HR departments work hard to deliver employee benefit programs to help employees be healthy, happy and productive. Take advantage of these same programs (e.g., EAP, flexible scheduling, paid time off, etc.) to address your personal health needs, so that you can better serve your company’s employees.
  • Delegate and prioritize. One person can’t do everything, and frankly, some things may no longer need to be done. Ask your coworkers for help with your workload, spreading the tasks more evenly among the team. Reevaluate underutilized programs that could be temporarily or permanently paused to allow for the management of more urgent tasks.
  • Seek out vendors and partners. HR professionals work with a myriad of external partners for payroll services, employee benefits administration and talent acquisition. Now’s the time to inquire about additional services they can offer to help relieve the current strain on HR teams.

For many companies, HR serves as the heart of the organization, focused on people and their individual and collective needs and delivering on the organization’s goals. It’s critical to invest time and resources toward the well-being of these important HR practitioners to ensure the ongoing viability of your business.