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Burnout Takes Toll On HR, Employers As They Deal With Deflated Employees  

A year-and-a-half of living through a pandemic has taken a big toll on human resources professionals and their employers as they also contend with ongoing employee burnout.

burnout 991331 640The bad news for companies, according to health experts, is that overall the U.S. is still closer to the start of the pandemic and still far off from seeing it end, CNBC reports. This means employers and HR teams will need to gear up for tougher challenges. And while there is consensus among employers that mental health resources are crucial, some HR professionals say there is too much work to be done for them to focus on their own wellbeing.

“Part of the stress is that, by nature, HR professionals tend to take care of others before themselves. It’s how we’re hardwired,” Alison Stevens, director of HR services at Paychex, tells CNBC. “That, combined with the fact that the pandemic isn’t over.”

Stevens’ supervises a team of over 600 HR professionals who help small businesses. She has not taken a break for 18 months at the payroll services company. Her firm released a recent HR report that surveyed 1,000 HR leaders in the U.S. and found that 98% of them say their responsibilities have changed due to the pandemic. The report, based on the findings of a online survey from May 11 to June 3, 2021 among 1,000 HR leaders at U.S. companies with 20 to 500 employees, also notes that 70% of respondents say the last 18 months have been one of the toughest periods in their careers.

The report finds that attracting talent is the top challenge for 61% of respondents. Planning and managing diversity, equity, and inclusion (57%); offering competitive benefits (57%); staying up-to-date on HR technology/solutions (57%) and keeping up with, and abiding by, regulations (56%) were cited as the next biggest challenges.

Another recent report, entitled “Employee Burnout in 2021,” reveals more sobering findings, including that only 19% of company leaders feel they really understand how to stem employee burnout. Nearly 80% of these leaders have seen burnout result in their workers being less productive, and only 24% acknowledge they conduct training that is effective in reducing employee burnout. The survey by Leadership IQ polled 4,193 company leaders in the U.S. during the week of August 9.

HR professionals need to rethink how they approach conversations with burned out employees if they hope to be effective, Mark Murphy, founder of, writes for Forbes.

For example, an employee may respond to an HR manager about a new initiative to tackle burnout by saying ‘I’m too exhausted to even think about that,’ Murphy writes. A follow-up response by the manager along the lines of ‘well, you’ve just gotta suck it up’ won’t help and may make things worse. “By contrast, if a manager were trained in the concept of internal locus of control, they might respond, ‘I hear that you’re feeling overwhelmed. So rather than talking about all the myriad issues we can’t control, let’s take one piece we do have some control over. And now, let’s go step by step through ways that you and I can influence that one piece,’” Murphy notes.

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