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HR must remember its purpose to avoid burnout

At the UNLEASH World conference a panel of HR professionals shared tips for maintaining wellbeing in a challenging role

HR professionals must stay connected to what gives them purpose to boost their morale and protect their wellbeing, according to Katelin Holloway, VP of people and culture at Reddit.

Speaking at UNLEASH's 2019 conference and expo in Paris she said: “Sometimes in this job it can be difficult to think about what you’re actually doing day to day. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the details, and being locked in a room full of executives doesn’t always feel like the best use of time."

Holloway said she regularly analyses what gives her purpose: “Helping an employee who is struggling is what I like doing, but isn’t something that always feels like it’s driving the business forward. I’m constantly doing an energy audit of what brings me satisfaction and fuels me in the role.

"Building trust and relationships, and saying ‘these are the things that will help to move us forward in the long term, not just for the next quarter’ is really challenging. But it’s what keeps me going.”

Laurent Choain, chief people officer at Mazars, said that HR professionals should prioritise resourcefulness, control and resilience to avoid burnout. “We are all [as HR professionals] in very nice jobs and we shouldn’t complain. You need to ask yourself if your organisation is improving, having no impact, or damaging people’s self-esteem. Burnout comes from the moment you feel helpless,” he said

“It can come from your CEO not valuing you, or feeling you are not doing the right thing. The answer to helplessness is resourcefulness. The worst thing we can do is concentrate entirely on efficiency. We, in HR, need to build organisations and people that are resilient,” he said.

It’s important not to work too much for the sake of it, said Katarina Berg, chief human resources officer at Spotify. “Loving what you do can be a blessing and a curse," she said. "It can also be easy to confuse doing a lot of things with actually delivering something of use. If you are working a lot but not accomplishing a lot stop doing those things.”

She added that HR practitioners should focus on doing the best job they can rather than becoming preoccupied with titles. “I feel as though in HR we’re constantly asking ourselves what we should be called or worrying about our titles. I think this goes back to an argument of whether we're bringing enough worth to the board. I think we need to end these sorts of questions. It’s not something other professions worry about. Really all that should matter is that we’re doing great work,” she said.

Further reading

Is HR neglecting its own mental health?

Dealing with a personal breakdown: One HRD's story

HR stress levels could be costing organisations millions

It's not weak to struggle with mental health, by Gary Cookson, founder and director of EPIC HR

Is HR consultancy the answer to the work/life balance challenge?, by Emily Perry, head of HR at The Shore Grou

HR's mental health: Letting people in is hard but necessary, by Annette Andrews, chief people officer at Lloyd's of London

Turning suffering into success, by Paul Carter, senior policy consultant at Civil Service Employee Policy

Control as a self-preservation mechanism, by Parysa Hosseini-Sech, head of human resources at Onecom