Employees complain all the time about excessive workloads and burnout. But what about you, the HR professional? Who listens – and cares – when you and your team are buried in work and overstressed?
We do. We get it. HR pros need relief from excessive workloads, too. And you likely need ways to bounce back from – or outrun – burnout.
You and your people are more overwhelmed than ever: Employee stress levels just hit another all-time high, surpassing the last peak when COVID-19 hit, according to research from Gallup. Almost 45% of employees feel a lot of daily stress.
You know this stress isn’t good for your head (it aches, right?) But how about your heart? Not much better. Long-term stress – and two years of upheaval is long term – can increase the risks of hypertension, heart attack or stroke, the American Psychological Association found.
Where the work has spiked
More than half of all HR professionals spend more time now on strategic work – such as developing company culture, improving engagement, crafting the employee experience and driving organizational agility – according to research from Sage People. Plus, most HR pros spend extra time now on administrative tasks – such as handling flexible work policies, providing workplace safety guidance and processing time-off requests.
“It’s been harder for (HR pros) to keep up with the day-to-day, to focus on new configurations even within their own system. Things that they had originally planned to take place have been put on hold, and they have other things that are taking their attention,” said Heather Rykowski, Customer Success Manager at Sage People in the HRMorning/Sage People webinar “How To Address Excessive Workloads in Your Teams.”
Here are four ways to regain control of the excessive workload and curb the stress:
Look at your metrics
If you and your team feel overwhelmed, you’ll want a baseline on what’s being done (and perhaps, more specifically, how it’s getting done).
You likely keep some type of performance analysis already – anything from project management and workforce software to simple Excel documents and time sheets. Yes, it’ll pull you from other demands, but you’ll want to look closer at how much time and resources are spent on each project, task and strategic moves.
For example, assess the workload for your recruiting team: How many open positions is each recruiter working on? How long has each been open? How does it compare to your organization historically? How does it compare to the industry average? Are you expecting too much from each recruiter? Is it an excessive workload or is the workload mismanaged?
“You really want to look at various parts of your HR team,” said Sarah Andresen, Principal, People Science at Sage in the webinar. “And look at how things have changed over time.”
You can get a data baseline with this, but it won’t give you the nuances – such as how employees feel about the work, and how the work makes them feel.
Do a health check
Numbers can’t tell the whole story behind excessive workloads and how they affect HR. People can – and will.
“Let’s do HR for HR,” said Andresen. “Use pulse surveys to dig in to find out what’s really going on with HR. They’re just as susceptible to burnout and low engagement as other teams. Think about being on a plane and putting on an oxygen mask. You need to put on yours first before you can help others.”
Gauge your teams engagement levels just like you would for other employees. Ask about their experiences. You probably don’t want to do this anonymously. Let the team know you need to understand how they feel so you can address issues directly and with haste.
Some questions to ask:
- How often do you feel stressed or frustrated at work?
- What’s your top priority?
- What’s your top stressor?
- What’s a manual task you think should be automated?
- How often do you skip a meal because you’re too busy or stressed?
- What’s something positive that’s happened at work recently?
Talk about the results
Once you have data and personal results, let your team – and ideally, your executive team – know what you’ve found.
Then have an open forum with your team. Remind them: It’s not a venting session. It’s a time to assess what you’re doing, what must continue to be done and how to do everything with effectiveness, efficiency and purpose.
One exercise that can help everyone is to ask them to create a Stop, Start, Continue List.
- Stop – What can you take off your plate or delegate?
- Start – What are things you hadn’t taken on and you want or need to?
- Continue – What are you doing that you want to continue going forward?
From there, create a plan that aligns the Stop, Start and Continue List with department priorities to get the excessive workload in check.
Stay ahead of stress
Excessive workloads lead to stress and burnout. But it’s more than cause and effect. It’s cyclical. When employees or whole teams are stressed, they will likely mismanage time and tasks – and workloads will become, or feel, excessive.
So HR leaders and their teams want to stay ahead of stress just as much as you want all employees to do it. Cesar Carvalho, Founder of Gympass, shared a couple of unique stress reducers – and they aren’t about going to the gym – with his followers on LinkedIn and MITSloan Management Review. Try to:
- Synchronize breaks. We know, it sounds a bit unrealistic to get everyone to step away at the same time. But when the pandemic hit, and his team worked from home, it was one way they were sure everyone 1) took breaks, 2) was less likely to be interrupted at inopportune times, and 3) was able to stay more focused and collaborate at the same time.
- Lead like a non-profit would. Numbers, results and goals are important. But they can be stressful. So try to open meetings and projects with a focus on the impact your work has on the company’s purpose, customers or community. You might share employee success stories, positive customer feedback or examples of positive impacts in your communities.