'Hamster wheel' | HR partner breaks down over burnout and too much work

HR partner breaks down over burnout and too much work

The HR function plays a big role in the workplace. From ensuring legal responsibilities are met to being compliant and looking after employee wellbeing and engagement, recruitment and learning and development to payroll and more, there are many things that fall under the people function’s remit.

While juggling multiple responsibilities is a large part of most roles, the challenge can be heightened within small teams where workloads are unevenly distributed.

This is an issue that one HR partner recently highlighted in a post on Reddit. In the post titled ‘Help! Burning out’, user turdunkindonuts – who said that they were relatively new to the HR field – explained that they worked in a lean department and have too much work assigned to them.

“If I pulled 60+ hour weeks I could never handle my to do list. I feel like I'm running on a hamster wheel and can feel myself burning out. I feel like I spend more time putting out fires then being able to take my time and do things the best I can (sic),” they explained.

Later in the post, the Reddit user asked whether other HR professionals had dealt with similar situations and asked for advice after admitting that “the way things are going is not sustainable”.

In response to this post, Reddit user ra-ramona encouraged the stressed-out HR partner to bring this up with their line manager, to ask whether “this pace is the ongoing expectation” and whether there are plans to bring more people into the team.

In addition, ra-ramona suggested that they offered their line manager a solution such as hiring a temporary intern or a permanent part-time worker to help spread the load.

The impact of burnout

If an employee is tasked with an unmanageable workload over a prolonged period and has a poor work-life balance then it is possible that this could result in burnout.

This could have devastating impacts on an employee’s health and wellbeing which is why it is crucial to avoid.

Therefore, regularly taking breaks at work, as well as taking time off, seeking support from colleagues or loved ones and sleeping are some ways that employees can tackle the feeling of burnout, according to Mayo Clinic.

HR during the pandemic

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, the HR function has been at the centre of alleviating disruption caused by the pandemic, and this has likely increased workloads for many working in HR.

This was something that Sharon Doherty, Chief People Officer at Finastra, recently shared in a LinkedIn post: “Since the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic on March 11, it’s been a busy time for Chief People Officers.” 

From changing working practices, to setting up employees to work from home and making tough decisions regarding the workforce, Doherty said that “the volume of work for a Chief People Officer has never been greater”.

This view is supported by Harriet Shurville, Chief People Officer at global agency Iris, who said that employees and executives have been turning to HR for answers during this testing time.

“Everything in this moment has been about people. HR has had to make huge decisions about our people and everyone was looking at us for understanding and guidance.

“It was on the us to work out by the second but we had to ensure that everyone else was equipped to talk about the changes that occurred. Often it was about understanding the law and applying it to our context. What do we want to do it? It is a lot of pressure on us as a function but then that’s great as we’re seen as an expert,” Shurville added.

Has your HR function been under pressure during the pandemic? Tell us in the comments...

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Comments (2)

  • Quentin Lillis
    Quentin Lillis
    Wed, 19 Aug 2020 3:52pm BST
    Freelancers in my network all report being busier and working more intensively than before lockdown began. One colleague Claire Baker has developed her brand "HR for HR" in the hope of addressing this very real problem of HR burnout.
  • Fellow HR Manager
    Fellow HR Manager
    Wed, 19 Aug 2020 2:27pm BST
    I can not tell you how much this article hits home with so many in the HR community.

    As I sit here with many years of experience dealing in the field of HR I am screaming inside 'ABOUT TIME THIS WAS SAID' as I read this article.

    Its not just those new to HR, many of my colleagues and I are talking about the current challenges on us, trying to support the business and the people. However we need to ask who is supporting us.

    It would be wonderful if CIPD had some kind of service to help support, council and coach those of us that are exhausted. help us to be continue to be the best that we can, to help carry us through these times. Maybe they do have a service, please do let me know if they do.

    In the mean time, look after yourselves, take time to breath, take time to be calm. We will get through it.

    A fellow HR Manager

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