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Where’s your oxygen mask?

As we head into another new year, it is clear that wellbeing and burnout is (or should be) a hot topic for most organisations as numerous reports from 2023 suggest that 46% of workers are close to burnout. These figures are pretty frightening as burnout is not the same as being under pressure or even stressed. If we actually hit burnout it is rarely as simple as taking a few days off, we are at risk of serious psychological breakdown that can take weeks/months to recover from, if at all. So, of course we in HR should ensure that this topic is taken seriously within our organisations to minimise the human and organisational cost. 

BUT WAIT…who looks after us? if we are the custodians of wellbeing in our organisations (regardless as to whether we should be). It seems that these additional pressures mean that HR professionals are at an even greater risk of burnout now than other areas.

For those of you who listen to the HR Uprising podcast that I host weekly, you will have heard countless insights into how we can avoid burnout, including a number of really powerful personal stories. What amazes me, is how poor we seem to be at prioritising our own wellbeing compared to others. The adage of putting our own oxygen mask on before tending to that of others appears to be lost on this generation of HR professionals – to our detriment.

What commitments do you make to improve your wellbeing?

Let me share some anecdotes that have made me question whether we all need to challenge ourselves. In particular, we should question if we are prioritising enough time to recharging our batteries? Both mentally and physically?

HR Wellbeing

Recently, I carried out some research into the most listened to episodes from our back catalogue of over 200 HR Uprising episodes and noticed that those episodes on self-care and managing stress had far fewer downloads than many other topics despite these issues coming up regularly as real concerns for listeners. Is it a case that we just don’t have the energy to make time to invest in our own wellbeing or development?

Let’s take another example – every time it comes round to CIPD renewal time there seems to be a crescendo of “Is my membership worth it?”. Every year I see people saying how they get nothing from their membership. In response, I see a handful of people every year pointing out that you get out what you put in. They point out all the benefits the CIPD membership brings. From brand new e-learning resources to free research, conferences, helplines and branch events. But the reality is that the CIPD can only provide resources to us, they can’t force us to commit the time to actually utilise them.

Why is it important to prioritise your own development and wellbeing?

It is my view that it has never been more important for HR professionals to prioritise their own development and wellbeing, arguably more in this profession than any other. Secondly, this is about leading by example, demonstrating to others in the organisation that wellbeing is important and self-development and learning as part of wellbeing. Finally, we know that HR has long been criticised for not being strategic enough. This is something that requires us to step back from the reactivity and consider all options. It may require us to gain new knowledge or skills. Perhaps we should make a concerted effort to press pause on the doing and invest in some thinking time. All the same, activities that would also nurture our wellbeing.

So why are we so poor at investing in our own self-development? There are many possibilities; we could be just too busy rushing from one crisis to crisis, we might be too busy juggling other family priorities or maybe, we just don’t think we deserve to invest that time on ourselves?

Are you too busy for self-development?HR Wellbeing

I hesitate to suggest this, but having recently read the excellent book Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez and in the context of being alert to discrimination, as an industry that is predominantly female is it possible that we are too busy carrying out ‘unpaid work’ to have any time left for ourselves? Is this why there are disproportionately more men in senior HR roles? Not because they are naturally more strategic but because they find the time (have less unpaid work to stop them) to invest in themselves and develop these skills?

This is no criticism of male HR professionals, and I am not saying that female HR professionals are oppressed either. Instead, my hope is that this a wake-up call for many of us to recognise that we do have the right to how we spend our time. Particularly that investing in our own wellbeing and personal development is a legitimate option. Behaving as we have always done simply commits us to the same outcome. Will your behaviour lead to stress and exhaustion or fulfilment and growth?

HR – The Unsung Heroes?

Of course, there is the strong possibility that those who have read this far have already got this memo, in which case let’s spread the word. Let’s lead by example by committing time to activities that enhance our wellbeing and develop our minds and careers. This could be the ideal opportunity to deservedly blow the HR trumpet and point out just how vital this profession has been recently and will continue to be. We just need to stop being our own worst enemies!

For more on this topic, visit our free HR resources page for further information.

E-Learning to support with wellbeing and resilience

As many of us will be returning to work or some hybrid work set-up over the coming months, it is going to be vital for us all to focus on our own resilience as well as the wellbeing of our team. That is why we have just launched a new e-learning module to support Managers with their teams to deal with these challenges. For more information, click on the banner below.

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