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    October 30, 2023

    HR Teams Need Wellness, Too

    At this time of year, Many HR teams are going through open enrollment for their employees. Even if you are not, you know that being prepared for open enrollment, educating employees, and then all the follow-up to get the new benefits year moving forward can be stressful. Like any other employee, during high workload times of the year, it is important for everyone involved to take care of their own health and well-being. 

    As an HR professional, what are you doing to support your own health and wellbeing? So much of your time is supporting your workforce, working with senior leaders, and dealing with sometimes very stressful employee issues. Making a commitment to your own health and well-being can help you be more focused and resilient.

    Being everything to everyone, and wearing all these corporate hats, has led to yet more stress for HR leaders. Data collected from Workvivo found that 98% of HR professionals are burned out – with 78% open to leaving their current role. Because HR professionals are so integral to any organization, a special focus on HR and this team’s specific wellness needs, is something every company should be thinking about. 

    Given the unique challenges of being in HR, a good starting place is to provide a space for honest conversation about what is most impacting the team and how that could lead to burnout. It’s not always possible to address every issue, but having the space to share the things that are most stressful can be helpful. It is also important to acknowledge that they’ve been heard.

    Your team is probably the most educated on your employee benefits and wellness offerings, but it’s important to remind even the HR team to use the benefits and programs the company provides. HR leadership can emphasize that they want HR team members to participate in any program or offering that best supports their wellbeing. Team leaders need to lead the way – they must participate as well. It gives permission to everyone in HR to feel comfortable signing up for a class, using the EAP benefit, speaking to someone about their own financial stability, or having flexibility if they are caregiving for children and/or aging adults.

    One of the most practical ways to support your team is to build in breaks, including a policy on not scheduling back-to-back meetings. That initiative should be specific to your working environment, but could include coordination so that unscheduled time is staggered to make sure that there is support for the general workforce. That isn’t as difficult as it sounds. As an example, each team member could schedule two times a week on their calendars that is their time. Those hours can be coordinated and then everyone is asked to put the specific hours on their calendar as reoccurring for at least three months. That can be worked around specific times for group meetings and other tasks. Some people may prefer that hour in the morning, others later in the day. Allowing people to pick the time that works for them and works for the team gives them more control over their workweek. Group meetings, as another example, could be scheduled Monday afternoons through Thursday, leaving Monday morning and Friday for individual work.

    As basic as it may sound, making sure people are taking a lunch break can be very helpful. Make it a policy for everyone in HR to do that, even if it is for 20 or 30 minutes. The mental break of getting away from the desk helps keep stress levels down. Again, it is important for everyone on the team do this, but most important for the top HR leader. It sets the example and gives people permission. To make it a habit, some of the team may need to be reminded.

    The physical environment can also make a difference. It’s been scientifically proven that having plants (including silk plants), nature pictures, and less harsh lighting impacts health and well-being. Also thinking about noise levels in a working area is important. If you are in an open office, consider providing headphones to block out distraction. You can also bring in an ergonomist and evaluate workstations or office set ups. They study the relationships between people and their workplace and equipment to improve human interaction with processes and systems. 

    So much of a work culture drives whether employees feel valued. Knowing that leadership appreciates everything the HR team does can support better mental health for the HR team and contribute to resilience. Reminding the C-Suite to acknowledge HR is something that often needs to be done. If the work culture is not as supportive as you would like it to be, you can build in a wellness focus just for your HR team.  

    As HR professionals, you know how much you do every day and how much you care about your employees. To not burn out, just like they tell us in the safety presentations on planes, you need to put your own oxygen mask on first. You need to protect your health and well-being so that you can be your best for your entire workforce. What is it that you most need to support you? What will you do to invest in yourself, your health, and your well-being? Take a few minutes and decide on one thing you can do for yourself this week. Once you’ve done that, see if you can encourage others on your HR team to do the same. HR professionals are too often unsung heroes in an organization. Be heroes to each other and to yourself.  

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