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July 9, 2021 Haeli Harris

Stress Management in HR: Tips for HR Leaders

HR leaders are often so focused on taking care of their people that they neglect taking care of themselves. Stress management in HR is a rising challenge, with 71% saying that 2020 was the most stressful year of their entire career.

Sudden, rapid change management is undoubtedly a factor. HR teams have to manage change, many projects, and an increasingly stressed and burnt-out remote workforce with less time, less money, and more personal stress.

This isn’t just a challenge – it is an opportunity for you to learn how to take care of yourself and your team better. Here is how to manage your stress as an HR leader to excel in your role while improving your mental health.

What makes HR a stressful job?

At its root, HR stress is often caused by being pulled in many directions at once. HR leaders are uniquely placed inside daily operations and external business concerns. They are expected to tend to the concerns of the internal workforce while also helping the company grow.

HR professionals manage change – yet, bureaucracy often prevents them from doing so. Many problems need to be solved – from reducing workplace stress to hiring top talent to managing benefits packages.

In our HR Support Group, we regularly hear that HR leaders are struggling with…

  • Fatigue
  • Burnout
  • Work-life balance
  • Lack of support from management
  • Managing many projects and demands

More on those and how to manage them later!

The Prevalence of HR Stress

You’re not alone in your stress.

A UK study found that HR is one of the most stressful professions out there, with 79% of respondents saying that their job negatively impacted them somehow.

HR leaders juggle management, internal and external business challenges, many meetings, and many priorities. It’s a recipe for high levels of stress. We’ve spoken to many HR leaders deading with these very problems, leading to poor work-life balance, fatigue, and burnout.

Long periods of stress and poor work-life balance can lead to burnout, leading to massive drops in productivity, job satisfaction, and mental health.

Related: What is Presenteeism at Work and Why You Should Care

woman with chin on desk using laptop - stress management in hr and hr stress

Signals of HR Burnout

More than 75% of American employees are currently experiencing burnout. The rate is higher among women, at 80%.

Suspect you may be suffering from HR burnout? Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Cynicism or persistent negative feelings about work
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Constant fatigue
  • Trouble focusing, low motivation, or a drop in quality of work
  • Projects or problems seem too overwhelming to face
  • Calling out sick. presenteeism, or overworking
  • Work feels like a waste of time
  • You feel like your work isn’t valued
  • Most days at work feel dull, overly stressful, or unhappy

If you are married or have children, your likelihood of experiencing burnout is even higher.

The culprit? Heavy workloads that make work-life balance an ever-increasing challenge.

The good news is that burnout is reversible and preventable.

Related: 5 Major Signs of Burnout, Prevention and Treatment

Stress Management Tips for HR Professionals

Here are the top strategies we recommend for managing HR stress, based on things we’ve heard from many professionals in our HR Support Group sessions.

In short, it is all about learning how to take care of yourself so you can take care of your team even better.

1. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is one of the best ways to combat HR stress. Mindfulness is all about being in the present moment without judging it. It is a popular coping strategy taught in therapy.

Meditation is a popular way to be mindful. You can also try simply noticing your surroundings, such as the sound of the clock ticking or the birds outside. Taking walks is another popular way to get grounded in the present moment.

Mindfulness reduces stress and anxiety. It serves as a great break during your workday or transition to leisure time.

Try out this 7-minute meditation to get started.

2. Prioritize

You have dozens of projects you could be working on. Where in the world should you start?

The key is to prioritize. Which tasks are the most urgent? Which projects are most important for your team or the business?

Determine what is the most important, and do those things first. Choose three things that you want to accomplish today, and focus on getting those three things completed well.

You can also create systems to save time. There are countless time management resources out there. It also helps to know yourself – which times of day are you the most productive? Which distractions can you eliminate? When is the best time of day to check your email?

Related: How to Prioritize Self-Care and Your Mental Health

3. Take breaks

Taking breaks can increase productivity and save time. Employees who take more breaks tend to have higher job satisfaction, creativity, engagement, and desk posture.

Try taking a proper lunch break – no eating at your desk! Take breaks once every hour for a few minutes to walk around, get a drink, and take a moment away from your work.

Taking breaks is an excellent opportunity for you to set an example for your team as well. Pave the way for wellness across your company by having a happy hour on Fridays, taking walks during the workday, and encouraging employees to truly step away from their work at the end of the day.

4. Talk to a counselor

A therapist can help you create a personal stress management plan for you. Talking to a counselor can also help you with burnout, anxiety, or any other negative feelings you may be experiencing surrounding your work.

Therapy works. The average therapy client is better off than 79% of people that do not seek treatment.

5. Join an HR support group

Talking to others that are dealing with the same stressors as you can be comforting and encouraging.

In the next HR meeting at your company, take some time to discuss some stressors that your team is facing. Talk about how you can work through them effectively and support each other in the process. Talking about mental health is a significant first step to improving it.

You can also check out some online support groups. Zenovate has a support group just for HR leaders, led by a licensed counselor – the inspiration for this post!

6. Try out a wellness program

A mental health program, wellness program, or EAP can help guide you on your mental health journey. Not only can a mental health program help you – but it is also an excellent opportunity to test drive the program for your team!

Employee mental health platforms like Zenovate help employees gain access to therapy, meditation sessions, yoga classes, life coaching, financial coaching, and so much more on-demand or live.

Related: Actionable Ways HR Can Support Employees in all 8 Areas of Wellness

7. Do things that bring you joy

Self-care is different for everyone. The key is to do something that makes you happy and helps you gain some energy back.

Block time off on your calendar to do something you enjoy. Make an appointment for yourself!

Some popular self-care ideas are taking a walk in nature, taking a bath, exercising, reading a book, or doing something creative.

8. Take care of your body

When is the last time you had a great night of sleep? Fatigue is one of the most common challenges we hear HR leaders face. More than one-third of American adults get less than seven hours of sleep, on average – lower than the recommended amount by the CDC.

Here are some ways you can get better sleep:

  • Wake up at the same time every day
  • End your workday at the same time every day
  • Have an evening routine to help you wind down for the night
  • Meditate before bed

Make sure you are well-fed and getting enough exercise for your body and mind as well. It is essential to check in with yourself!

Haeli Harris

Haeli Harris, LMFT is the Lead Counselor at Zenovate. She has been practicing as a Marriage and Family Therapist since 2014. Haeli has experience working as a therapist in private practice settings, residential facilities, outpatient treatment care, schools, and telehealth.

Licenses, Certifications & Memberships
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, UT
Registered Yoga Teacher 200
Trauma Conscious Yoga (2021)
Clinical Member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

Bachelor's of Science Degree in Human Development and Family Studies, University of Utah
Master's of Arts Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, Northcentral University

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