When will HR put on its own oxygen mask first?

There is no doubt that the onset of Covid 19 has placed a disproportionate amount of strain and responsibility on Human Resource professionals who have been placed into unchartered territories with no choice but to respond to the ongoing challenges brought about by the pandemic.

Last month Rob Nathan and I ran a seminar aimed at creating some space for several HR, L & D and Talent professionals to reflect on their own well-being and to consider some ways in which they could better harness their strengths and energy to help them navigate the current challenges.

We called it ‘Care for the Caretaker’.

It had an overwhelming amount of interest.

So why was there so much interest?

HR professionals sit in the uniquely challenging place of having to represent their organisation’s best interests and those of the employee. The sheer pace of the crisis in 2020 left little time for much reflection or self-care.

Research suggests 93% of HR decision makers reported feeling more pressure than ever before (LHH 2020) and only 34% of HR professionals felt able to ‘switch off’ (CultureAmp’s HR for HR survey June 2020).

The CIPD suggested 63% of HR professionals said employee health and well-being was one of their top three priorities during the pandemic. Indeed one only has go google ‘what should HR be doing about mental health’ to see the focus on this debate.

Many have risen to this challenge but we wondered at what cost to them?

We couldn’t help but ask to what extent, ‘Was HR putting its own oxygen mask on first?’.

Our audience of HR professionals seemed to agree with this and shared some of the key challenges which had affected them in the last 12 months.

Key challenges for our HR audience

  • Feelings of loss of control & stress of worrying for others
  • High expectation on HR to be leading from the front
  • Increased workloads and sense of always being ‘on’. Many employees working unusual hours and patterns which means HR email is constant. Also affected by different time zones.
  • Enabling others to learn technology and new ways of working and as learning professionals themselves, an increased sense of expectation to help others to lead the way
  • Loss of boundaries with permanent home working

Our audience wanted to quickly move to solutions and as Career Coaches we were keen to impart the value of reflection before moving to consider action steps!!

We shared some thoughts about the links between strengths and energy and how this links to more meaningful self-care. We wanted to offer the opportunity to reflect a little more deeply than surface level care tips. This created the chance for HR guests to think about what motivated them more deeply and to consider the links between self knowledge and career goals. In turn this prompted discussion on boundaries and self-management.

We shared our model of self-management:-

effective self managementIn conclusion our HR professionals felt that there were a number of important take-aways from our session that could enhance their current and ongoing workplace experiences.

Here are some of the key thoughts which might be useful to readers:

Ideas about ways to improve self-care for HR:

  • Setting and following our own boundaries.
  • Peer learning and peer support and setting up HR colleague networks.
  • Focusing on strengths and drivers – concentrating on what raises energy and doesn’t drain you.
  • Understanding the distinction between learned behaviours and strengths. Be clear on where your energy comes from – distinguish between what you are ‘good’ at and where you thrive.
  • Communicating what our energy and boundaries are to others. Voicing out loud what we want to commit to.
  • Arranging meetings that last 45minutes or 1hr15 meetings instead of 60 or 90 minute meetings with no downtime. 
  • Seting an example of how as HR professionals we look after ourselves – lead in this way when it comes to well-being, mental health and self-care.
  • Thinking about self-care as values-led – who you are and what matters to you. This becomes an attitude shift rather than surface level changes that are much more likely to be sustainable and systemic.

The mood was optimistic – it was clear that our group were incredibly purpose led and that the space to reflect on how they could continue to add such huge value to their organisations in a way that was both energising and sustaining for them was hugely powerful to see!

We finished with a quote from David D’Souza pre-pandemic, which resonated more than ever:

“The bravest most game-changing action that HR can take for the rest of the business when it comes to mental health is not role modelling perfection but imperfection; showing the workforce they are vulnerable…”

Immediately after the seminar, we were delighted to be invited to run a similar programme in-house for one international organisation.

If you would like to discuss anything in this article, please contact Kate Mansfield kate@career-counselling-services.co.uk.

Recommended Posts