Meet Emma, a 30-something HR professional at a tech firm and mum to a lively 4-year-old. Emma is deeply passionate about nurturing a positive work culture and safeguarding the wellbeing of her colleagues. However, with limited resources at her disposal, the temptation to be all things to all people ends up relegating her wellbeing onto the back burner.
This is the situation many HR professionals face in today’s workplace. Many become HR professionals because they have a passion for creating productive, healthy workplaces where people can thrive. Many champion wellbeing initiatives and are driven to create positive change within their organisations, but this can come at the cost of neglecting their own needs.
The Importance of HR Professionals’ Wellbeing
The ripple effect of Emma’s wellbeing on her effectiveness is palpable. A typical day sees her oscillating between meetings, managing conflicts, strategising for better work environments, and the unanticipated call from her child’s nursery. The intertwining of her professional and personal roles, although enriching, can be demanding.
Emma, like many in her field, often finds herself enmeshed in a paradox. Her pursuit of ensuring everyone else’s wellbeing sometimes eclipses her own health. This self-neglect is born from a conscientious desire to do right by her employees, even if it means stretching herself thin.
Self-Assessment and Monitoring
For people like her self-assessment is not a luxury but a necessity. She needs to use all the the tools and resources that she has made available to others. This will accomplish three important things for her:
- She will have 1st hand experience of the services she is putting in front of her colleagues.
- She will make sure that things are not getting too much by using self-assessment and monitoring tools herself.
- She will become herself more resilient and will learn to prioritise her own self-care as she advises others to do. If she is stretched too thin, she is not going to be able to help any of her colleagues. Taking time for herself does not mean she is neglecting her colleagues; quite the opposite. Taking time for herself will ensure she is maximally effective.
Building a Support Network
Someone like Emma would know that building a support network for herself is paramount. As a HR professional she would have probably built these for her colleagues, but now she needs to participate and ensure she has supportive co-workers and mentors who can give her guidance, even if they are from outside her company. She needs to also think about her home life and make sure that this aspect is not neglected. Playing with her 4-year-old, and spending time in her little garden with friends are more important than they seem to make sure she accomplishes her goals at work.
Again, this is where many HR professionals may not apply to themselves the principles that they endorse to their colleagues, making sure things are good at home will make you much more effective and resilient at work.
Accessing External Support
HR roles can be very stressful and HR professionals might be quite reluctant to seek help when they need it even as they are the ones championing early help-seeking to their colleagues.
Let’s imagine that things become difficult for Emma. There is a lot of change at work after the company goes through a growth spurt having to onboard many new colleagues. This is exciting but exhausting for Emma. On top of that her 4-year-old has severe allergies and each message she gets from the nursery sends her heart rate through the roof. Also her mother has had something detected on a routine screening at the doctors and is having to go to multiple hospital appointments.
A HR professional facing multiple demands like Emma needs to be pragmatic. They would be the most knowledgeable about what external support is available for the company and they need to use it. This is important to help her cope at a difficult time, but also it will give her 1st hand experience of the services available to her colleagues. This is also the time to lean on her network and allow herself to be supported by colleagues and those in her network.
HR professionals’ networks
An issue that might be unique to HR professionals is that they may feel a bit isolated themselves when they are struggling. Everyone goes to them when there are issues, but who do HR professionals go to? Having a source of advice and support within or outside their organisation (or both) can be invaluable. Sharing stories of those who have faced challenges and who have made room for self-care amidst their demanding roles can serve as guidance for others in similar situations. Someone like Emma who has a lively but challenging work environment and significant responsibilities at home, would have a lot to contribute to these discussions and help someone who is just starting to figure out how to juggle everything.
Self-care plays a fundamental role in the efficacy of HR professionals. HR professionals need to think of their own needs as well as those of their colleagues and take the wellbeing lessons they champion to heart. Organisations need to recognise the special role HR professionals play in the wellbeing of the workforce and make sure they are not neglected. As I hope Emma’s story illustrates, prioritising her wellbeing is not a dereliction of duty, but a necessary component of her ability to support her colleagues effectively.