HR takes care of everyone, but who takes care of HR?

There has been no definite answer to this simple but complex question.

Recent research shows that many HR professionals in Nigeria and around the world deal with a range of workplace challenges. In 2019 before the pandemic began, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified burnout as an occupational phenomenon. In making its decision, the agency drew on the work of Christina Maslach, psychology professor emerita at the University of California, Berkeley.

The WHO said burnout is characterized by:

Feeling of energy depletion or exhaustion. 

Increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativity or cynicism tied to the job.

Reduced professional efficacy.

The pandemic has left many HR professionals grappling with seemingly unending stress as they try to find the best ways to cope. A 2021 survey of 726 HR practitioners in 7 countries showed that burnout and exhaustion are rife amongst HR Managers, with 42% of teams struggling under the weight of too many projects and responsibilities.

A report by Lattice, a provider of HR software solutions in the USA, noted, “The team tasked with upscaling the rest of the organization is critically understaffed. Among HR leaders who said they were emotionally exhausted, more than two-thirds blamed it on being overworked, and over 40% said it was because they needed additional headcount to meet their business goals.”

At the same time, employees experienced a tremendous amount of distress with the change in work style and environment leaving HR to figure out how to keep employees feeling engaged and supported. “Nobody was really taking care of HR while we were running around like headless chickens trying to make sure everybody else was OK,” Kittredge says. HR is “the place where stress goes to live in an organization,” she adds.

Raghida Abdallah Yassine, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Management at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y., says it falls to HR “to create the policies for the well-being of the employees and company.”

Many business leaders panicked in 2020. Government-mandated restrictions ordered many businesses to shut down, people were told to shelter at home, and an alarming stock market plummet in March 2022 put fear into company executives. Unaware of what would happen to the economy, millions of employees were fired or furloughed and HR managers were saddled with the unpleasant responsibility of dispensing the bad news. If you have ever let a person go, you will know how awful it is for the recipient of the bad news—but it also takes a huge emotional toll on the person delivering the message.

In light of the pandemic, HR has had to continually ensure employee well-being is intact and look for signs of burnout. Although it is not part of their job description, members of this group had to serve as de facto therapists, cheerleaders and leaders to maintain morale. These tasks were in addition to their core mission of recruiting, hiring, onboarding and retaining employees. They have had to make tough decisions around keeping a remote policy or enacting a hybrid or in-office model. No matter the choices, you cannot meet everyone’s needs or make everybody happy.

A recent study conducted by Workvivo highlights the following reasons for HR burnout.

1. Workplace transformations and the Great Resignation

2. Bearing the brunt of employee burnout emerging from remote and hybrid working transitions.

3. Under-resourced HR departments

4. Workplace disruption caused by office politics adds more strain to an already tumultuous period.

5. HR Managers feel undervalued in their organizations

The above shows the severity and widespread of HR burnout, and if not curtailed it will have an enormous impact on organizations and worsen the challenges they are currently facing.

How can HR Professionals deal with burnout and exhaustion?

It is a good idea to rethink job satisfaction and possibly make some changes to how work is done. These tips can help HR Professionals cope with burnout:

Get Sufficient Sleep 

Getting enough sleep helps the mind stay sharp and focused on the day ahead. It improves concentration and gives the brain time to rest so it can tackle problems more logically. If you are rested, you will have more energy for the challenges of the day, rather than feeling overwhelmed by them.

Leave Work at Work 

Be sure to unplug from work entirely on days off and when you are away from the office. If your company has a bring-your-device policy, make sure not to check email or answer texts during your downtime unless it is an emergency (and even then, do so sparingly).

Take Time Off 

Whether you need a short vacation or a couple of sick days, take them. It can be difficult to admit that you are burnt out and struggling with anxiety, but it is better to take care of yourself than keep working until something breaks.

Take a Wellness Course 

It is not too late to learn more about staying healthy and increasing productivity. Taking an online wellness course can help you learn healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

Find outside or internal groups to connect with

Lots of groups popped up during the pandemic. If you like Slack, there are groups there. LinkedIn, Facebook, and even Reddit have groups that provide support for the HR professional in need of advice.

‘Kemi Onadiran

Head, HR natnudO Foods,

Visionaire, Careerswithkemi


Office Address: Legacy Place, 1619, Danmole street, off Idejo street, Adeola Odeku, VI, Lagos.


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