Preventing HR burnout is crucial for ensuring employees are happy and workloads are achieved. In 2024, 95% of HR leaders reported being overwhelmed due to stress and workload. To make matters worse, 81% of them are feeling burned out. HR burnout isn’t a new phenomenon and will continue to be a problem if companies don’t take steps to prevent it. To know how to solve an issue, it’s important to know what the root causes are.

What causes HR burnout?

There are a range of causes that could lead to HR burnout. These include :

  • Company transformation: When the company is continuously changing, HR managers will need to overhaul policies and processes to adapt to the change. In the long term, taking into consideration every little thing and making changes frequently can cause HR employees to become exhausted.
  • Managing online and onsite employees: HR leaders have to manage both online and onsite staff, meaning that they constantly have to change their approach and consider ways to manage their staff more effectively. 
  • Compassion fatigue: HR employees need to look out for other staff members, meaning that they need to comfort, resolve issues and ensure that staff relations remain positive. Prioritising other people on a daily basis can take a toll on the mental health of HR employees.
  • Not having the right tools to manage issues: A recent report showed that outdated technology is still a part of 1 in 4 HR employees’ work lives. Outdated technology means more manual tasks for employees to complete, more things they need to worry about and more instances of them forgetting to do what they were supposed to. 
  • Layoff guilt: Dismissing an employee isn’t a pleasant experience for anyone but HR employees have to let go of multiple individuals in a single month. This can feel isolating, affect their mental health in more ways than one and fill them with guilt as they’re essentially telling someone that they won’t have a stable income in the near future. 
  • Social media: Whether we like it or not, employees are exposed to social media very often. This exposure can have a detrimental impact on the mental health of any team as what we see on social media may not be the reality of the situation. People promote grind cultures, unhealthy working conditions and constant achievements that may push HR employees to work more than what they are capable of in order to reach the standards promoted online. 
  • Making difficult decisions: HR managers will be put in positions where they have to go against an employee’s or employer’s wishes to ensure a fair decision is made. Making difficult decisions and being the middle ‘person’ between the employee and employer is another factor that can lead to burnout over time. The stress of decision-making can build up and make future tasks harder. 

There are many more factors that can contribute to HR burnout. If you suspect that your HR team is burned out, the best way to understand the causes of the problem is to ask them directly rather than make assumptions. This will enable strategies that are targeted to their individual needs. 

HR Burnout

How to prevent HR burnout

If you are looking for ideas to help your HR team, here are a few great suggestions:

  • Encourage work-life balance
  • Adjust expectations and goals
  • Provide them with resources
  • Update outdated software
  • Consider hiring extra staff

Encourage work-life balance

Work-life balance should be available to all employees within the company. Encourage your HR team to set strong boundaries around their working hours, meetings they attend and contact outside of work. Do they need to attend every meeting they have been invited to? Why? What will be the purpose and the takeaways for them? 

In Australia, a new bill was recently introduced called the ‘Right to disconnect’. This bill oversees after work hours contact and supports staff to not reply to messages after work hours unless it’s reasonable. Share with your HR your support for them leaving non-urgent tasks for the next day and whether their workload will need to be adjusted. 

Adjust expectations and goals

Speaking of adjustments, another area that will need to be looked at is expectations and goals. Sometimes staff may make non-urgent matters seem urgent, which puts pressure on the HR team. It would be advisable to communicate with all staff on what is considered an emergency, how deadlines should be set and how to prioritise tasks in order of importance. 

Performance goals should also be evaluated to determine whether they align with what the team is able to achieve realistically. Work can fluctuate throughout the year and as goals are usually set annually, it may be more fitting to set them quarterly and check up on the progress. This will give supervisors a better idea of what the team is dealing with and how objectives can change to reflect the fluctuating work and responsibilities. 

Provide them with resources

HR professionals are so used to dealing with everyone else’s mental health which makes it easier for them to neglect their own well-being. Provide HR managers with the right resources to help them overcome difficulties and act as a reminder for them to access these resources. HR employees are humans too, and they need someone who will listen to them as well. 

Company-wide training on the influences of social media on the unconscious mind might also be a great way to empower employees. Sometimes things that staff may see as entertainment or relaxing may be affecting them negatively without them realising it. 

Update outdated software

One of the best ways to prevent HR burnout is to ensure that the team has the best software and systems that will make their everyday tasks easier to complete. Our customers noticed that case management was taking up a lot of their HR teams’ time, making it almost impossible for them to carry out core tasks when dealing with an employee complaint. 

Polonious’s case management system focuses on improving workflows, setting up automatic reminders and providing every HR employee involved with progress updates. This allows them to spend more time on their daily tasks and less time worrying about what the next steps are. 

It is recommended that continuous improvement is something integrated into the business culture. There are new systems and software that are introduced every year that may offer a breather to HR teams as they make their lives simpler. Talk to your team and figure out whether they have found any digital solutions that will work for them or any devices that can fast-track their operations. 

Consider hiring extra staff

A big reason for HR burnout could be an increasing workload due to understaffing. As the company grows, the HR team will have more responsibilities, greater things they need to focus on, more contracts and other necessary documentation they have to complete. This means that new people may need to be hired for the team to operate effectively. 

Lack of help could pressure a 5 person team to complete work that should have been completed by 7. That isn’t realistic for any employee. Speak with your staff on whether more help is required and how would a new recruit fit within their team. 

Consequences of HR burnout

It’s crucial that quick action is taken to prevent HR burnout before it becomes the new normal. Failing to do so could lead to:

  • Decreased job satisfaction: The team may dread the workday and become unhappy while at work.
  • Emotional and physical exhaustion: Burnout can make individuals feel like they are always running but nothing gets done. 
  • Reduced productivity: Burnout can make employees less ambitious which can drop their motivation significantly. 
  • Negative attitude: A bad state of mind can be reflected in the way that employees deal with colleagues and other stakeholders.
  • High turnover: If HR burnout continues, employees are likely to look for another job to escape the never-ending cycle.

Of course, these are only a handful of consequences that if ignored, can lead to burnout extending beyond the HR team. The same practices that deteriorated the HR team’s mental health are likely to be used again by other teams in the future. 

Your employee’s well-being matters

Employees aren’t just numbers. The HR teams are constantly trying to support other colleagues but they need the same amount of support as they are working in the same environment. The best course of action is to stay in contact with them on a regular basis and check in on how they’re doing. This will help you build a stronger connection and make it easier for them to speak up if they need assistance.

Polonious has helped many HR teams around the world manage employee relations through our case management system. We allow HR leaders to manage everything from one place, preventing file loss or misplacement. Only those permitted can access our system anywhere, anytime, even when they are online. We also make report writing easier as they have all the information they need already completed within our system all they have to do is modify data as they see fit.

If you want to help your HR team deal with employee complaints and manage relations better, reach out! We will be happy to show you how our system can help!