By Paola Pascual on May 4, 2022 4:15:03 PM
Working in Human Resources means that caring for others is a fundamental part of the job, but caring for oneself as a person and professional is often pushed down the list of priorities.
You are constantly asked to come up with strategies to keep people engaged, healthy, and happy, but who is taking care of you and your wellbeing? Employees and leaders all turn to you for help. Stressors in the workplace have increased exponentially with the pandemic. Processes and policies are changing rapidly. With the pressure to always be the hero, HR practitioners are experiencing a soaring risk of burnout, now more than ever.
We often forget that we have to care for ourselves to be able to care for others. And that is what Talaera’s first HR Culture Month is all about. It’s about understanding that you can’t pour out of an empty cup. For you to create a high performing organization, you need to nurture yourself first. We had a discussion with Anna Graziella, Human Capital Consultant at Deloitte about this topic. You can watch it on demand here.
Burnout in HR
The role of HR is more complex than ever. The focus is no longer just on personnel management and administrative tasks. All forward-thinking HR departments now thrive to manage employee engagement and wellbeing, cultivate a strong company culture, help employees with any issues they may encounter, and leverage data and analytics to strategically propel the organization’s development and growth.
The stressors that HR practitioners face have only increased over the last couple of years with the pandemic. Rapidly changing processes and policies, additional health and safety requirements, recruiting during the Great Resignation, facilitating remote work, rcoordinating the return to the office, and/or orchestrating a hybrid model are just a few of the challenges for the modern HR professional.
Virtually all HR professionals have felt burned out at work in the past six months (98% according to a survey conducted by Workvivo). Burnout and exhaustion are widespread in HR. The numbers are staggering.
It’s high time we start taking more care of our HR professionals. And for HR professionals to take more care of themselves.
Self-care in HR
It all starts within us –with the self. Just like you must put on your oxygen mask first to be able to help others, you need to practice self-care to be able to establish high-performing teams.
Self-care is the practice of taking an active role in protecting your health and well-being. It is about being in control of the situation. Self-care is about proactively addressing potential negative impacts of all the stressors you have at work, before they actually become a problem. We all have different definitions of self-care, so it all boils down to understanding what fills your own cup.
Do more of what makes you happy
Take a moment to reflect and consider what you value and need in your everyday life and, in particular, during times of high stress. Identify all the different activities or practices that help you at a mental, emotional, and physical level. For me, it’s about getting physical activity and sunlight. For you, it may mean spending time with your dog or having a morning coffee with your significant other. Basically, find out what makes you happy and make time for it.
Answers from attendees at the Self-Care in HR session on May 3.
Strive for work-life integration
In today’s world of constant interconnectivity, it can seem impossible to disconnect from work and set healthy boundaries. Work-life balance feels utopic for most of us working from home. But perhaps we should stop thinking about work-life balance and start thinking about work-life integration.
With hybrid and remote workplaces, it gets harder to separate our work life from our personal life. We often find ourselves with feelings of guilt because we can’t be fully present without thinking about other concerns. We mentally try to solve an issue with a client when having a dinner date with our partner, think about picking up our child from daycare during an important meeting, answer a work email at a family gathering... Sounds familiar? It’s more common that you’d think.
Anna Graziella Barreno, Human Capital Consultant at Deloitte, recommends focusing on work-life integration –rather than work-life balance. Work-life integration refers to blending both our personal and professional obligations and finding areas of compromise. You may be able to fold laundry while listening to a presentation, take a call with a customer while commuting to work, or put your exercise time in the middle of your workday (perhaps during your lunch break).
Again, it’s all about finding out what fills your cup and maximizing your productive time while still making room for leisure and disconnection.
Establish healthy boundaries
Raise your hand if you’ve ever…
- Checked your work email outside of office hours
- Opened Slack in bed right before going to sleep
- Answered a Slack message first thing in the morning (even before your coffee)
- Tried to deal with
- Picked up work (way) outside of your job description
You can do all of these without breaking your boundaries. But work-life integration is not about being "on" all the time. The issue is when it becomes a habit you don’t get time to rest. Tha'ts when you feel you’re working 24/7 and you burn out.
You need to know your limit and give yourself permission to set boundaries. Here are some examples of what healthy boundaries at work might mean to you:
- Don’t check Slack after 7 pm
- Say no to working on the weekend
- Use your PTO (Paid Time Off)
- Set working hours –and stick to them
- Encourage your team to run more efficient meetings (and decline unnecessary ones)
- Set away messages when engaged in deep work mode (one of my Slack statuses is “🤓 I managed to focus and might take a bit longer to get back to you”)
- Delegate work when necessary
Set clear expectations
Once you’ve understood what activities help you preserve your well-being and how you can integrate your personal and professional life, openly communicate them.
Tell your team members and managers what your working hours are and what works for you (and what doesn’t). Communicate upfront how you like to work and how you like to give and receive feedback. Talk to your family or house mates about how you organize your day and let them know when you are accessible and when you are focused on work.
Never assume that people know. By being honest and setting clear expectations, those around you will better understand how they can best approach you.
Simon Kennell, People & Culture Manager at Talaera, has created a wonderful People Hub with a section called “🏋🏼 Who are my teammates?”. This is part of our internal documentation and he encouraged the Talaera employees to create their own profile to get to know each other more and understand how we all work. It includes:
- Job title
- Days I work
- Hours I work
- Where I’m based
- Short bio
- Working with me
- What I’m into
- How to contact me
Learn to reset
We all need a break every now and then –throughout the day and after stressful situations. Learn to take a day or two of PTO, go for a walk, pause your work and exercise. Or perhaps you are into breathing exercises, mediation, or yoga. Whatever helps you stop for a moment and reset, do it periodically. Don’t wait until the weekend, until you have a headache, or until you are fully burntout.
If you feel overwhelmed in the middle of a conversation, be assertive about it. Communicating clearly and honestly about it shows respect for yourself and others.
- I need a second to think. Can we talk about this after lunch?
- I really want to finish this conversation when I’m in a better headspace. Can I call you tomorrow?
- I know this is an important conversation, but I feel like I might say something I don’t mean if I don’t take a break
Caring for yourself as an HR practitioner
At a personal level, take time off, strive for work-life integration, and do more of the things that make you feel good –dancing, cooking walking, spending time with your dog... Turn inward and check on yourself. Be as kind to yourself as you are to others.
Communicate clearly and openly about your boundaries and how you like to work. Encourage employees to tell you specifically actionable ways for you to help them. Instead of just letting them complain and rant about an issue at work, ask "What specific actions can I take to help you?"
You work hard to keep your employees engaged, healthy, and happy. But who takes care of you? How do you make sure you have someone to reach out to when you are in distress?
Rely on your team. HR is everyone's responsibility, and it should feel that way. We all have to check in on each other, and we are all responsible for our well-being. Lead by example and instill this culture of accountability and appreciation in the workplace. Oh, and learn to delegate. You don’t need to be the hero all the time.
Get social. Find a community of other HR professionals and support each other. There are excellent Slack, Facebook, and LinkedIn groups out there where HR and L&D practitioners help each other. Feel free to add your LinkedIn profile in the comments for other HR fellows to connect, share your favorite groups, or reach out to us for specific recommendations.
Practice self-care by following all the advice we provide above and check out the discussion on this topic with Anna Graziella Barreno, Simon Kennell, and Paola Pascual. You can watch it on demand and explore all the additional questions that we covered. Join the discussion on LinkedIn and access the recording here.
The topic of self care in HR is the first one in our HR Culture Month 2022. Explore the full program and explore all the free resources.
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