• 32% of HR managers say heavy workloads prevent them from helping employees with burnout
  • 31% also struggle to recognise signs of burnout in employees
  • 94% of HR managers feel they are burnt-out, which experts warn is preventing them from providing effective employee support
  • Six in 10 (59%) HR managers state they’ve seen an increase in employee burnout in the last six months

New research reveals the barriers HR faces when tackling rising levels of employee burnout. The research, from Wellbeing Partners, shows that the most cited issue preventing HR from providing better burnout support to employees is their own workload. Thirty-two percent of HR managers say this is a problem. Thirty-one percent also struggle to recognise signs of burnout in employees.

The survey of 200 UK HR managers also shows that while 6 in 10 (59%) say they’ve seen an increase in employee burnout in the last 6 months, 26% admit to having limited understanding of how to deal with it, and more than 1 in 5 (23%) don’t understand the exact protocols to take when employees show deteriorating signs of mental health. Unsurprisingly, 17% don’t know when it’s appropriate to refer employees’ on to mental health professionals.

HR is burnt out too

Wellbeing Partners’ research also reveals that 94% of HR managers say they have signs of burnout too. Nearly half (47%) say they struggle to find motivation and stay focused, 4 in 10 (39%) feel tired or drained most of the time, 30% say they don’t sleep well most nights and 27% feel that nothing they do is effective or makes a difference.

On top of this, unhelpful coping strategies are taking place: over a quarter (28%) say they ‘just want to go on their phone or watch television’ and 17% use food, drugs and/or alcohol to cope.

Lou Campbell, Programmes Director at Wellbeing Partners, clinical experts in employee mental health, states:

“Many HR teams are expected to handle employee burnout and mental health issues, essentially becoming counsellors to support employees with any number of problems. This is a dangerous precedent. HR is unlikely to be professionally trained to navigate employee mental health issues, plus too many HR professionals are simply overwhelmed with so many priorities. It’s creating a vicious organisational circle.

“HR can take manageable action. One key step is to learn the appropriate framework – the boundaries – for having supportive conversations with employees. This helps conversations follow an appropriate path, utilising techniques and phrases which prevent support turning into therapy sessions, and bring conversations to a safe close. While showing care for employees, a framework can help HR professionals avoid entanglement in mental health or personal issues, and provides psychological safety for all parties.

“Ultimately, HR must remember that they are not counsellors and should also learn the skills to signpost employees to professional support. Taking on a counsellor role is not appropriate; ensuring employees get the support they need is. In doing this, HR can gain valuable time for their own wellbeing.”

Lisa Baker

Author Lisa Baker

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