Avoiding HR Burnout—A Multidimensional Approach


By Diane Taylor

A career in human resources can be highly rewarding. Developing and implementing practices and services that engage people to achieve a company’s business objectives is definitely a strong career proposition. Less often discussed is the higher than average possibility of burnout.

Wikipedia defines burnout as: “a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work.”

It is ironic to consider that the people who strive to create engagement within organizations may have a higher degree of burnout than some other professions. However, as has been noted, careers in “the helping professions” such as nursing, psychology, social work and HR to name a few are proven to have higher rates of burnout.

Add to this the evolution of HR professionals as both people focused AND strategic business partners, and the career demands and risks of burnout become even more apparent. 

Today, most organizations are going through rapid and significant change to maintain an edge in a highly competitive marketplace. For HR, this often, if not always, means change management activities, restructures, downsizing and “optimizing” programming and services—doing more with less.

This is of course in addition to the daily employee relations, performance management challenges and employee coaching. Being “at the table” and committed to making a positive impact on the bottom line often means highly challenging and sometimes emotionally exhausting work.

However, despite all of the challenges HR professionals are faced with in our current reality, it is possible to avoid burnout and maintain a positive outlook and a high level of engagement in this challenging profession.

To do so, it is imperative that you take care of your most valuable asset—you. People who choose a career in human resources are typically people who have a high degree of compassion for others. They often take care of everyone but themselves.  Just like a high performance race car cannot continue to race around the track without taking pit stops, you cannot continue to serve others at a high level when you are depleted.

Resiliency is built in many dimensions. You can optimize sustainable results and avoid burnout by developing your own unique wellness plan that considers action in three dimensions –physical, mental and emotional/spiritual.

Physical Dimension (Body) – The benefits of a good diet and exercise are pretty straight forward. Exercise not only benefits you physically, but the increase in endorphins assists in lowering stress and anxiety. A well-balanced diet supports all of the functions of your body.

What can you do to better support your physical dimension? Where can you change your diet to better nourish your body? Would a supplement benefit you? Are you staying hydrated? What physical exercise can you commit to and enjoy? When was the last time you saw your doctor for a physical?

Mental Dimension (Brain) – Technology has greatly enhanced the way we work; however, it also means that we are always “on.” When you check you iPhone for messages to stay on top of things right before you go to sleep you actually continue to process those thoughts or ideas throughout the night. Just like your computer needs to be re-charged, to maintain a sharp mind you need to provide some time for it to be restored.

What can you do to better support your mental dimension?  Is it possible to implement no screen time hours for yourself so many hours before bed? Can you consciously change your final thoughts before you go to sleep to something positive and non-work related?

Emotional/Spiritual Dimension (Spirit) – This dimension can be harder to define, but is critical to making your wellness plan sustainable. Human beings are so much more than just bodies and brains and as a result we need to honour our emotional and spiritual dimensions as well. Connection and support are key to ensuring solid emotional wellbeing, while understanding the purpose your work serves and trusting that things will work out are the first steps to spiritual wellness.

What can you do to better support your emotional/spiritual dimension? Who is part of your support circle and how often do you see them? Should you consider adding a professional such as a coach or EAP service? How can you add more laughter and fun to your life? What purpose does the work you do serve? What changes can you make to align more with that purpose? What practice can you include to connect with the voice you trust; prayer, yoga or meditation?

Wellness doesn’t just happen. It’s up to you to create and commit to a plan that will ensure you avoid burn out and maintain resiliency and vibrancy. Don’t wait – commit to yourself today!

Diane Taylor is a leadership and life design coach with 20 years of corporate HR experience.  As principal of Glow Leadership, her purpose is to help people create meaningful balance by becoming leaders in all areas of their lives.

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  1. Great article….and well written!

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