A company is considered the most successful when all employees are engaged and performing. No doubt, this year has challenged and tested everyone. Yet, among the sweat and tears, one team of unsung heroes has remained consistently focused.
They are a beacon of strength and comfort to the entire organization: your human resources team.
Under the best of times, an HR pro has a complex job. They are responsible for finding new employees, managing current employees, and keeping a pulse on the company.
Like the rest of America’s workforce, HR pros were thrust into the unknown — with the exception, the rest of the workforce expects them to have all the answers. During the pandemic, their responsibilities stacked even higher. Best-laid plans crumbled. Pipelines of candidates were placed on hold, and the pressure was on to turn the company completely virtual.
Factoring in the emotional toll of 2020, employees working from home report soaring stress levels. Because there’s no separation of work and home life, and limited distractions are available outside of the home to decompress, remote employees are experiencing more frequent burnout symptoms.
According to a 2020 Gallup poll, 76% of all employees feel burnt out at least sometimes. The top five reasons include:
- Unfair treatment
- Overwhelming workload
- Unclear or infrequent communication
- Insufficient manager support
- Unrealistic pressure or deadlines
Unfortunately, their recent survey found engagement with their jobs has been on a steady decline. According to respondents, the greatest drops in engagement from early 2021 to 2022 were regarding employees feeling they have “clear expectations, the right materials and equipment, the opportunity to do what they do best every day, and a connection to the mission or purpose of their organization.”
Your HR sees the needs of your organization and scrambles to support all staff through these struggles. Now’s the time to support them.
If you’re looking to lower the risk of burnout symptoms and help course-correct for employees already struggling, here’s how to empower your HR team in all aspects of their work:
Talent Acquisition/Onboarding Tasks
Your HR team finds new talent and brings them up to speed. They carefully craft job postings to attract qualified and diverse candidates. They conduct interviews and extend offers. Typically, your HR team makes this process look seamless.
The pandemic presented new challenges to this well-oiled machine. Many positions switched to remote work. Interviews are now video from introduction through a final decision or conducted while wearing masks. HR professionals are on high alert for the qualities of an agile workforce, and they may be doing a major audit of internal practices to ensure the workplace is diverse and inclusive.
It’s a lot for anyone to juggle. Your HR team members may not be raising their hands for help. So, it’s up to you to spot their burnout symptoms.
Look at the numbers. Do you see any a-typical trends emerging, such as increased candidate dropouts? Are offer rejections on the rise? Look at these metrics in relation to the number of interviews being conducted compared to a normal year. These patterns could be red flags your HR team is struggling to connect well with talent, and their hiring duties are suffering.
Check in with your HR team. Listen. Get the narrative around the changes you see. Look for personality changes. Burnout symptoms can manifest as apathy, reserve, and denial, just as much as emotional volatility, defensiveness, or increased negativity.
Find the problem areas and respond with empathy. Work with your HR team to identify obtainable goals for wrapping up Q4 hiring initiatives. Identify the positions that need to be filled by Q1. Then switch the focus to what your team needs to be more efficient. Ensure they have the technology they need to source and screen qualified talent.
Evaluate your interview process for effectiveness. Switch up roles if your HR team is large enough. Handoff interviews to someone else for a few days or weeks. Give your stressed team member a break to refocus and recharge.
Create a checklist to make responsibilities clear for each role on your HR team. Automate what you can. Most onboarding steps — payroll, nondisclosure agreements, non-competes — can be templates. Use systems like DocuSign or PandaDoc to speed up this process. This makes it easier for team members to lean on each other when they feel symptoms of burnout.
Recommended Reading: Be sure you know the dos and don’ts of remote hiring.
Employee Engagement Management
In order to spot the effects of HR burnout, you need to get the pulse on your organization. Employee performance metrics provide a helpful narrative. Start with departments that are struggling the most. Look for productivity slumps or high rates of employee exit. Take inventory of the number of Professional Improvement Plans (PIPs) delivered in the last quarter.
Go through all levels of your organization up to the C-suite. Evaluate performance reviews of employees and 360 reviews of managers to see the big picture.
Employees disengage when they don’t feel supported by their managers. They also check out when they aren’t given enough information to do their jobs well. Uncertain times, like the global crisis of 2020, can create economic instability. Employees wonder if they will retain their jobs. If yes, for how long?
HR teams can get critical information to managers with the right guidance. Managers need to know how to answer tough questions about job security and the company’s health. Be transparent where you can be. Share financial plans and security to help employees believe statements around job security.
Letting more folks into the fold can reduce some of the pressure on HR. They won’t feel the heavy burden of information. Share this information in company all-hands meetings or even optional town hall sessions. An added perk of these gatherings is an increased opportunity to connect.
Remote work can lead people to feel like they’re working in a silo. Disconnection reinforces employees’ feelings of being underappreciated or like their work doesn’t matter. This can be especially true if their job doesn’t have an immediate impact on customers or sales numbers.
Burnout leads to increased disengagement and decreased productivity. You have to see and break the cycle from the top down.
Create a virtual water cooler, throw a virtual holiday party, or host a virtual happy hour. Create a space to connect without it feeling like another obligation. Don’t let this work fall on HR’s shoulders entirely. Get creative in helping employees feel seen and bringing people together.
Employee benefits typically extend beyond health care and paid time off. Some companies pay for parking, gym memberships, or lunch at the office. Those perks are great under normal circumstances, but they may not be the best fit moving forward from the shifts of 2020.
See what benefits you currently offer that staff is using. Is the company wasting away the HR budget by keeping unused benefits? Could some benefits shift to reduce or solve burnout?
Get creative. Expand on programs you already have in place. Allow employees to use gym memberships for at-home health and wellness programs. For example, Peloton, Beachbody, and NordicTrack offer subscriptions for online workout and yoga courses. Additionally, apps like HeadSpace and Calm.com teach guided meditation and stress management.
Repurpose office lunch money to be a stipend employees can use toward meal kit services or food delivery. Ease the burden of cabin fever by sharing recipes between co-workers. You can even let GrubHub or Postmates do the heavy lifting for an occasional employee dinner.
Encourage self-care, and model it from the top. Advocate for mental health days being as important as traditional sick days. Promote work-life balance and the ways that can look. Some employees may prefer a predictable 8-to-5 schedule. Others might appreciate flexible hours.
Create clear guidelines for all benefits offered and encourage employees to use them. Build a culture of support between employees and managers. Establish a leadership model that celebrates life outside of the company.
Reducing employee burnout cuts down on HR burnout. Easily accessible resources and policies address questions around benefits, and modeling will reduce hesitation around using them. More engaged employees equal a happier, more productive workforce with fewer conflicts and complaints.
Red Flag Burnout Symptoms
Keep a keen pulse on employees’ well-being. Make sure your virtual door is wide open. Advertise where they can seek help, and be open to feedback and suggestions on how to meet their needs and reduce stress.
Watch out for burnout symptoms. Look for physical or emotional changes in your team.
Employees who suddenly alienate themselves or disengage may need help. Reduced work performance often warrants a conversation and a collaborative plan rather than disciplinary action.
Your company is most successful when all employees are feeling and working their best. You need to look out for each other. Be kind. Be empathetic. Support your remote team by keeping a special eye on the HR team that keeps everyone engaged and performing.