The summer holiday season has arrived, but HR might not feel like it has. With concerns around returning to on-site working (for those who’ve been working from home), managing absence requests and long-term planning around what work will look like, HR teams are under constant pressure.
So, what can HR people do to manage the huge demands on their time and make sure healthy work pressure doesn’t tip over into unmanageable stress?
Spot the signs early
Keep an eye on colleagues who you think may be beginning to show signs of stress. People who are struggling with their workload may be taking more time off sick than usual or demonstrating uncharacteristic behaviour, such as getting angry or upset over seemingly trivial things. A lack of interest in personal appearance or poor timekeeping are other signs to look out for. Don’t let the problem escalate – express concern, offer support, and talk about what can be done to lessen the load.
Discourage ‘always on’ culture
It’s been argued that the ‘always on’ culture may have been exacerbated by increased homeworking due to the pandemic, blurring the lines between private life and work. Some people felt like they had to respond immediately due to ‘having more time’ when working from home. While it’s not a new issue, its impact has worsened to the point that there have been discussions around implementing the ‘Right to Disconnect’.
Consider establishing guidance about appropriate times to send emails; most email platforms now have scheduling features that allow you to choose a send time. Many companies use a wide range of internal communication tools (chat, email, phone, etc.). Make sure that you have clear guidance on what each channel is used for to avoid overload from all these tools.
Create a supportive atmosphere
It’s important to create an environment where people feel it’s okay to say if they’re not coping. If people know they have the support and understanding of their colleagues, they might be less likely to have a meltdown.
Regular team meetings can provide a forum where everyone can talk about what’s on their plate, what deadlines are looming and whether their task list is realistic. Keep the lines of communication open so the team can support each other, look at how work can best be distributed, and how HR can manage the expectations being put on them.
Let technology take the strain
Hours of HR time are wasted administering routine tasks that can so easily be automated. HR software can help HR record and track annual leave and sickness absence, manage performance effectively and generate the up-to-the-minute data senior management need to inform business decisions.
Some HR software UK, like Cezanne HR, also offer self-service. This gives employees the ability to access and update their own information, allowing managers to lead their teams more effectively. Freed from the burden of unnecessary admin, HR professionals can concentrate on the more strategic aspects of their role and add real value to the business.
Invest in HR’s own development
People who feel equipped to do their job are less likely to be anxious, and more able to cope with the challenges being thrown at them. It’s not just about technical skills, but also about helping people improve their ability to manage their workload, influence others, bounce back from setbacks, and build resilience.
HR is often so busy managing other people’s development that they forget to pay attention to their own. Make sure your HR team is also having regular formal appraisals and informal performance conversations where people can identify their development needs and discuss how best to build their competency levels.
Encourage time off
Getting enough rest is beneficial not just for personal wellbeing but also for the organisation, as people are more productive and motivated after a restful break. Having annual leave booked gives colleagues something to look forward to, which can help ease the pressure they feel at work.
Ensuring your HR team takes time off also has the added benefit of reducing the likelihood of a leave-request rush at the end of the leave year when everyone’s clamouring to use up their remaining holiday entitlement.
HR people are concerned with the health and wellbeing of the workforce – but often don’t walk their own talk. HR needs to role model the behaviours they want to encourage within the business by maintaining a healthy work–life balance themselves. If your organisation is welcoming flexible working arrangements, or offers wellbeing-related benefits, make sure that your HR team is also making use of them.