Burnout in HR

How is it nearly the end of March 2022? And look how far we have come in the last two years! It’s safe to say as HR professionals we are pretty proud of how far we’ve come and what we’ve delivered. We’d hate to talk ourselves up but we think we’re up there in a business sense of being true heroes.

Managing stand downs, redundancies, reduced hours and JobKeeper, all while managing employees from afar, COVID in the workplace, vaccination status and that’s on top of all the standard HR stuff!

So, whilst we could never really plan that far in advance and no two days were ever the same, we soldiered on. We’re not going to lie; it was hard and we often thought about quitting. Bad news consumed our lives. At the time it was challenging and exhausting. We had to help people manage burnout whilst experiencing it ourselves.

Which in turn leads to the question, what exactly is burnout?

The common understanding is that burnout relates to exhaustion and stress as a result of feeling overwhelmed with the work you’re doing or being asked to do. It might also involve feelings of confusion in terms of fairness in workload or lack of control on the work coming your way. For others it might be the lack of reward and recognition for the work being done or that there is a mounting pressure or increased responsibility to achieve. Alternatively, it might be the lack of support or trust that triggers the burnout.

Any of the above have the ability to impact in a negative way on an individual’s mental health and their experience at work. It is important to note that just because someone is experiencing burnout, it doesn’t mean they are not capable of doing their role or they dislike their work. It just means there are other factors influencing their performance.

From our perspective – what does HR burnout look like?

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again. Managing people is tricky! It can be challenging at the best of times, so we get that during a pandemic, of course it is going to be harder. As HR, our natural instinct is to help. We think big picture as our work has the ability to really impact the lives of others. When business owners are in distress, we want to help solve that issue. During the pandemic, this became harder and harder to do as we had to be across a wider range of topics. The need to be consistently “on”. There were certainly lots of curveballs thrown our way and no sooner had we adapted to one – a new one came along. It was tiring!

For many HR professionals, redundancies, team restructures, and stand downs were top of the pandemic priority list. Then there was the payment side. This also involved balancing employee wellbeing, whilst continuing to keep businesses afloat. Then when we got on top of that, along came the vaccination and the many changes that occurred when it became mandated.

What are the signs of HR burnout?

Burnout can look different for everyone. For many, it will present in ways that make you feel exhausted and overworked. This could be irritability, worry, mood swings, a decrease in the quality of work produced, retracting from social events and encounters, fatigue, sensitivity and overall disengagement with the business. Naturally, when these signs are front and centre, most employees are more likely to have an increase in absenteeism but because the nature of working from home presented, many pushed through and felt they needed to be on and available all the time. Ironically given that we couldn’t fly, perhaps we weren’t reminded enough to put our own oxygen mask on first.

With this in mind, we see 2022 as a year of reset. A year where we can go back and reset our direction. Whether that means having more meaningful one on ones, being mindful of our time and own mental health or reaching out to support those around us. Knowing what to look out for and how to help is the only way forward. Everyone juggles and wears a lot of different hats.

We know burnout is tough, but we are here for you.


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