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Put On Your Oxygen Mask First: Identifying and Preventing HR Burnout

HR professionals do not have the world’s easiest job. Most HR generalists are part benefit advocates, part lawyers, part therapists, part (zoom) party planners, and part rule enforcers. Now throw in a pandemic, and you have a recipe for a very tired and depleted superhero.

As caretakers of others, our burnout can look more like compassion fatigue. This term is often used in healthcare or industries helping animals or people with traumatic events. Compassion fatigue is a feeling of suffering, sorrow, or empathy to the point of exhaustion, associated with a deep desire to alleviate the pain and suffering of another person.

Burn out or compassion fatigue might also look like:

  • Work Behavior: Tardiness, absenteeism, lack of concentration, lack of creativity

  • Social Behavior: Impersonal or numb communication, use of sarcasm, disengaged or withdrawal from others

  • Emotional Behavior: Anger, irritability, negativity about everyday tasks, apathy, feeling overwhelmed

  • Physical Behavior: Headaches or migraines, stomach or intestinal issues, aches, difficulty sleeping, depression

If you are suffering from burnout, remember that the benefits you offer to your employees are also available to you. Some of the tools typically available include:

  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP): EAPs are a one-stop call for everything from counselors to childcare and lawyers. Don’t spend hours searching for options; let someone help you.

  • Mental Health Counseling: Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most health plans must offer mental health coverage. Talking to a professional may be more affordable than you think.

  • PTO: Don’t forget to take time off. The option may not be available to take a trip to Maui, but giving yourself some breathing space to step away from daily responsibilities can provide a necessary reset.

  • Protected leave: Many situations can qualify for coverage under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (WPFML).
Taking the time you need to care for yourself first allows you to help your employees.

Besides the formal tools offered through your workplace, consider putting together a self-care plan that will support your recovery from burnout and prevent it in the future. A self-care plan can include exercising, blocking out time during your workday to meditate, planning events to look forward to, and following a sleep schedule.

While our job as HR professionals is to make sure our employees are OK, we can’t show up for them if we are not putting on our oxygen masks first.
Picture of Sarah Johnson, SPHR

Sarah Johnson, SPHR

Sarah joined Archbright as an HR Advisor with over 17 years’ experience providing HR Leadership throughout Seattle in a variety of industries including high tech, health care, e-commerce, brick and mortar retail, grooming & hair care, nonprofits, and farming. Sarah is passionate about people. She optimizes efficiency and organizational development through solving complex foundational issues, change management, coaching, strategic planning, performance development, and training. Sarah received her Masters of Written Communication with an emphasis in Technical Writing from Eastern Michigan University and a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a minor in Speech Communications, from Baldwin Wallace College. She holds a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certificate and is a member of the Society of Human Resources (SHRM).