Managing Tough Days: 7 Tips for HR Professionals

In late 2022, HR Executive published an article about “The Great Burnout” among HR professionals and the impact it’s having across the industry. Both the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Resignation of dissatisfied, underpaid workers have brought responsibilities and worries to HR professionals that they were never trained for, and that definitely weren’t in their job description! 


With that in mind, the facts are troubling, but not surprising:

  • 88% of HR professionals say they dread work
  • 97% say their work has caused them to feel emotionally fatigued
  • 73% say they don’t have the tools and resources to do their job well
  • Only 29% feel that their work is valued by their company
  • 98% reported burnout in the last 6 months 


So what can HR professionals do on a tough day?

1. Understand “Good” vs. Bad Stress 

Good stress? Absolutely. All our motivators put stress on our bodies and minds, whether they’re positive or negative. For example, when you’re really excited about a new project, or interviewing a great candidate, your heart rate and pulse quicken, and you feel a sense of urgency, and you need to get it done. The feelings in your body can be identical for good stress and bad stress in the initial stages, so it’s important to differentiate between the two.


“Good stress is short-term and it inspires and motivates you, focuses your energy and enhances performance. Bad stress, however, is the kind that wears you out, leaves you jittery and is harmful to your health. Bad stress, or distress, can lead to anxiety, confusion, poor concentration and decreased performance.” (Source: Summa Health)


Think of your biggest stressors at work. Are any of them actually positive? Or is everything exhausting you and weighing you down? Once we have a sense of how things at work are affecting us overall, we can focus on minimizing negative stressors. 

2. Be honest with yourself.

Once you have the negative stressors in front of you, examine them closely. It’s time to determine why they’re draining you so much. For each stressor, ask yourself these questions: 


  • Is this task within the scope of my job?
  • Do I have control over when or how this gets done?
  • Is this task a priority for doing my job well?
  • Do I have capacity to do this if I remove all non-essential tasks from my list?


With those answers, the next steps to take will be clearer.


3. Get Non-Essential or Irrelevant Tasks Off Your Plate

Now that you know which tasks are non-essential stressors, it’s time to work on getting them off your plate. You may not be able to eliminate all of them immediately, but trimming just a few can go a long way toward managing your overall stress level. You might consider:


  • Talking to your manager or supervisor about getting tasks reassigned
  • Reassigning tasks to people who report to you (as long as those tasks are relevant to their workload) 
  • Dividing tasks into subtasks and tackling them as a group


It’s very likely that, when tackled with the support of a team or fellow leader, these tasks will become more manageable. They may even become someone else’s priority.

4. Schedule Time for Specific Types of Tasks Each Day

Once you have your task list pared down, it’s time to schedule out time to get things done. We’ve had success breaking tasks up into measurable chunks of time, and scheduling time to work on those tasks on our calendar. This way, that time is set aside for that work, just like it would be for a client meeting or candidate interviews. 

5. Schedule Breaks, Rest, and Time Off

When you’re filling up that calendar, don’t forget to add rest. Scheduling breaks— whether you’re out of the office, taking PTO, or in but unavailable— is crucial to preventing burnout and maintaining balance at work and at home. During those rest breaks, remember to hydrate, stretch, and take time away from your screen. If you’re feeling exhausted because you’ve been under the weather, take the time you need to recuperate fully before getting back into work.

6. Honor Those Boundaries

Once you have your tasks—and your rest— scheduled: honor those boundaries. Keep work at work, and do your best to stop working on a given task once the time allotted has passed. At home, stick by your “you time” and stay off the clock. Don’t log in to work email or messaging platforms during time meant for you and your loved ones. 

7. Prioritize Your Well-Being

At the end of the day, managing tough days is about grounding and checking in with yourself. No one is going to be able to do everything perfectly, even on “easy days”. It’s important to give yourself grace and check in with coworkers and team members when you need extra support.  If you’re in a healthy work environment, you’ll notice improvements once you focus on what’s essential for your satisfaction and success.


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