Employee Wellbeing, leadership | Article

4 Reasons HR Leaders Burn Out (And What To Do About It)

Human resources is often considered a lonely field. Then add in the last couple of whirlwind years and HR leaders are getting burnt out.

Burnout. HR leaders have been dealing with the seven-letter word for decades. But the focus is usually on other employees rather than themselves. With a million other things on their plate, thinking about their own burnout has become a low priority. It’s time to think about HR burnout, what may be causing it, and what HR leaders can do about it!

Ever since March of 2020, HR leaders have dealt with tons of new, complex issues. Responsibilities have shifted so much that one Paychex Report found 98% of HR leaders say the pandemic has transformed their role. Just as unsurprisingly, 70% said 2021 was one of the most challenging years of their career. 

What to do:  

  • Stay up to date with HR news daily. Subscribe to newsletters, listen to podcasts, join LinkedIn groups, and/or follow reliable sources on social media. Whether it’s pandemic-related or not, this will keep you in the know of current mandates and guidelines to follow.  
  • Network. The news will not have all the answers but networking with others can help fill that gap. Connect with other HR professionals to learn and share innovative solutions during these unprecedented times. 

Task overload 

Many HR manager have always had a ton on their plates, even pre-pandemic. Some even run the show solo! Being alone could mean handling recruiting, onboarding, payroll, benefits analysis/administration, disciplinary action, writing/altering policies, and employee relations. Wow, that’s a lot (and not even the complete list.) 

What to do:  

  • Utilize technology. Lighten the load with various HR technologies such as an applicant tracking system (ATS). An ATS can make recruiting more efficient by improving how you receive, screen, and track applications. Similarly, a good payroll and HRIS system can save time and increase accuracy.  
  • Partner with other businesses. When it comes to financial planning, EAPs, employee recognition, and employee benefits, it is oftentimes best to leave these responsibilities to the experts. Promote these third party partnerships within your organization, schedule on-site visits and lunch & learns, or even just link to their company website. Not only will you save valuable HR Leader time, but you’ll also connect your employees to the best possible resources.
  • Create repeatable processes. Save even more time by putting solid processes into place. This may include onboarding practices or templates for job ads. Things may need adjustments at times; however, you won’t have to start from scratch. Create an organized system because this is some important stuff!

Always caring for others 

HR leaders are typically trying to make sure everyone else is taken care of. This has been exceptionally true during both the pandemic and mental health epidemic. The reality is that in taking care of others, sometimes they neglect their own needs. It can be hard to think about the self while constantly thinking about how to make sure things run smoothly for everyone else. Not to mention it can feel like a jam-packed schedule doesn’t leave any room for “me” time.  

What to do:  

  • Prioritize self-care. Set aside time to truly decompress amidst all the chaos. Squeeze in mini breaks during the workday. Read a book or meditate at night. Take the vacation with your kids. Even when it feels like things will fall apart if you’re not there. Rely on your team to help while you’re away! 
  • Set the example. If you are a senior leader and don’t set the example of self-care, other employees won’t feel like they have permission to take care of themselves. Take advantage of the benefits you work so hard to shape for other employees like PTO and EAP programs.   


Certain information must be kept confidential by HR leaders. This sometimes leaves them without a space to collaborate, discuss, and vent. It can be lonely, especially for the individuals that singlehandedly run an HR department at a smaller company.  

What to do:  

  • Join organizations. You can join networking groups with other professionals to collaborate on similar issues. Being a part of groups with other HR leaders is also great reminder that you are not alone. Research local organizations to join near you such as a chapter of AHRM. Ask your company if they will cover membership costs, too! 
  • Lean into a strong support system. It’s important to have a group of people that support you outside of work. Bear in mind that confidentiality laws remain, so be careful when venting to friends and family about anything work-related.  

The biggest takeaway for HR leaders: Practice self-care and remember you are not alone. It might seem obvious, but sometimes we need a reminder. Physical and mental wellbeing are important when it comes to surviving an occupation that comes with stress and loneliness. Along with other tools, processes, and networking, your job will become more of a pleasure than a burden!