Employee Morale

HR Leaders Get Burned Out Too: 9 Ways to Balance Workload

Laura Saracho
December 7, 2021
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HR leaders find themselves feeling very burned out toward the end of the year. From preparing for open enrollment and surviving budget season, to taking care of everyone else’s burnout, it’s easy to forget that People teams get overwhelmed and overworked, too. 😔

So we punted this question to the crowd: What is one tip for HR leaders to balance the workload to avoid workplace burnout?

From building boundaries and finding balance to delegating routine tasks, there are several strategies that may help you reduce your stress during this time of year. 

9 Ways to balance your HR workload



1. Create a relief plan

"Worker shortages, increased workload, global pandemic—these are just a few things that have impacted the workforce over the past two years and have taken a toll on employee well-being.

If you or your team is beginning to show signs of burnout, put together a plan to relieve each other. What tasks are urgent that need to be transferred to another department member? Which are less urgent and can take some time on the backburner?

Once you've worked through this, give your team members some well-deserved time-off, then decompress! The organization and your own well-being will suffer if you don't."

- Steven Brown, Pivot Workforce

2. Build boundaries and find balance

"All HR folks should demonstrate a sense of balance and boundaries in their work with and for their companies. For example, I have a hard stop every day at 6:00 pm unless prior arrangements have been made. My phone goes on quiet, and I do not engage in emails.

Also, and this was the hardest part, I took emails off the regular email app. I must open the Outlook App to access emails on my phone. This enables me to be intentional about my emails. I manage them, and they do not manage me."

- Karen Young, HR Resolutions

3. Put yourself first

"Putting yourself first is easier said than done for many of us and may feel impossible for some. However, prioritizing your own self-care is essential to avoiding burnout. 

And self-care looks different for everyone. For me, I start every day with exercise, and take a short walk if I feel overwhelmed. Self-care, coupled with a routine developed before the pandemic, helped me avoid burnout in a year when burnout seemed nearly inevitable. 

Remember, self-care isn't indulgent. You cannot take care of others if you aren't taking care of yourself. So take a few minutes—or longer—to put yourself first."

- Tracie Sponenberg, The Granite Group

4. Recognize fatigue and leave work at work

"Oftentimes, burnout in the workplace can be avoided by simply being real with oneself. Have you been feeling stressed lately? Do you find yourself "on edge" while speaking with coworkers? 

Being able to personally recognize when you're feeling burnt out at the job before it happens can allow you to be proactive about the situation. Furthermore, HR leaders need to set the same boundaries that every employee should have. That is, leave work where it's supposed to happen, at work. Your time after work should be focused on your personal life and not on the job. 

If you find yourself only thinking about your job, even after hours, you're more than likely overworking yourself, leading to burnout. Create a mental on and off switch that is hit every time you clock out, allowing you to be happy at home while still productive at work."

- Himanshu Agarwal, WorkBoard 

Want more? Check out The Complete Guide to Hybrid Work Strategy

5. Use technology to boost productivity 

"The average adult spends one-third of their workday reading and replying to emails. For HR professionals, that number is higher. Technology such as HR software can help leaders balance their workload and avoid burnout. 

You can use efficient hiring software such as Boostpoint to manage incoming applicants. With HR technology tools, you're less likely to experience burnout."

- Evan Zhao, Revela Health

6. Listen to your own advice

"Being an HR Manager not only means that you are in charge of processes, systems, and tools — you are a focus point of trust. People, real human beings of all levels, are approaching you to confide in you, seek counsel, and hope you can support them in their individual endeavors. 

This can be challenging on a mental and emotional level, and it's not always easy to "switch off" when you leave the office. Here are some thoughts and approaches I found helpful in dealing with these situations:

  • Coach yourself. You are probably able to coach other people. Try to have a coaching conversation with yourself and try to gain a new perspective.
  • Turn to comedy. Go and watch your favorite funny movie, series, or stream. As soon as you start to laugh and your brain releases all those tasty endorphins, you will definitely feel better.
  • Get perspective. No matter how important your role is, remember: you are not a surgeon. No one will die if you can't solve a situation."

- Reinhard Guggenberger, Soaring Fox

7. Examine team member workloads

"Ensure that no team members are given responsibilities outside their pay grade or for which they have no prior experience. Nobody should be in charge of HR functions they don't understand. Not only will this lead to errors, but it will also lead to poor performance and a drop in morale.

Fair redistribution of workload is critical. Fairly redistributing work necessitates an awareness of your team's work capabilities. Breaking down large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks can make it simpler for your team to meet their objectives and avoid burnout.

Remove the "always-on" mentality as well. Employees should not be answering emails late at night when they should be sleeping or working on projects on their days off or PTO. Setting healthy boundaries around work is crucial for reducing stress and increasing productivity."

- David Bitton, Doorloop

8. Conservatively anticipate initiative needs

"We're running into HR initiative after HR initiative that is seemingly taking HR leaders by surprise. Sometimes it's simply that they didn't predict just how much effort was going into an initiative, and others, it's that they actually didn't know someone was going to need to be involved. 

A great example is HR Technology implementations. There is a substantial amount of effort required on the part of HR — payroll, benefits, and other HR functional resources to help facilitate implementation. 

The software vendor or services provider might be able to lessen the load, but in the end, you know your processes, your data, and the inner workings of your organization. Assume that you'll need to be more involved than you think you will while still realizing that there will be significant efficiencies gained once you're through."

- Jeremy Ames, Workforce Insight

9. Delegate routine stuff

"As a former VP-HR, I know how tough it is to balance workload. My secret to better balance was knowing what I could delegate to my staff. 

I focused on tasks involving HR strategy and overall operations while I let my employees take care of the day-to-day tasks like promotions, benefits questions, HRIS maintenance, etc."

- Dave Rietsema, Matchr

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