HR Burnout Is Real and Not Going Away: How to Cope

Burnout is a legitimate and alarming problem for companies in every industry, but it may be especially acute in HR professionals.

When you’re an HR professional, your job requires maintaining a delicate and often uncomfortable balance between being your employees’ advocate and the organization’s representative. You’re expected to enforce company policy while still being compassionate and empathetic to employees.

It’s a tough spot to be in, and it can take its toll on you professionally and personally.

To make matters worse, burnout has become more of a risk than ever before. And despite a majority of the workforce in many companies going remote, it’s clear that HR operations are not going to get any easier.  

Stressed businessman with glasses at a cluttered desk.

HR Burnout in 2022: How Is It Different?

The world has changed a lot in the last decade, and as a result, so has the way we work. We’re seeing more remote workers, freelancers, and part-time employees than ever before. This change has had a profound impact on the role of HR.


The COVID-19 pandemic required companies to act quickly and decisively to keep employees safe and businesses running. In the process, many human resources functions have been transformed—some permanently.

The pandemic has changed the way we work, forever. Organizations are rethinking their approach to employee engagement and HR departments are now trying to balance employee well-being and productivity.

HR departments that were already struggling to cope with increasing demands from employees and management have found themselves overwhelmed by the added pressure of dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. This has led to a sharp rise in mental health issues among HR professionals and caused many to experience burnout.

Great Resignation

While the major effects of Great Resignation become evident in 2021, there is evidence that the process started before the pandemic. By 2019, the job-hopping rate had risen almost tenfold. Companies were building up and tearing down their workforces like Lego blocks.  

When the talent pool became exhausted, there was a collective realization: There are only so many talented people out there. Companies could either compete for those people or try to develop a more talented workforce by training the ones they already had. 

Most chose the latter and as such, talent retention became a much larger focus for companies and HR departments, which led to structural changes in how HR was organized and run. This means that in 2022, HR professionals are still struggling with the effects of the Great Resignation, leading to collective burnout.

HR Compassion Fatigue: The Symptoms

Compassion fatigue occurs when those who are primary caregivers are exposed to secondary trauma over a long period of time. Being a caregiver can be very stressful, whether you’re a social worker or psychologist on the front lines; a manager whose employees are struggling with personal issues; or someone caring for an elderly parent or sick spouse at home.

If you’ve worked in human resources for any length of time, you’ve probably come across situations where your empathy was pushed to its limits—and beyond. Perhaps an employee’s child was diagnosed with cancer or someone’s career was derailed due to mental illness; maybe one of your employees witnessed the death of a loved one. 

These kinds of situations happen more often than we’d like, but we have to keep our own professional balance as well as support our employees through their pain.

Physical Symptoms

Exhaustion and chronic fatigue, loss of appetite and/or weight gain, headaches and/or sleep disorders.

Mental Symptoms

Loss of interest in others’ problems, preoccupation with others’ problems to the exclusion of one’s own interests and concerns, cynicism, negative attitude toward colleagues, clients or patients, decreased creativity or judgment.

Emotional Symptoms

Increased irritability or agitation, overreaction to minor incidents with staff or clients, crying spells for no apparent reason.

How to Cope With HR Burnout

So, how do you avoid HR burnout? You may want to think about how you can change your daily habits and behaviors. It’s a good idea to rethink your job satisfaction and possibly make some changes to how you approach your work. Consider these tips on how to cope with HR burnout:

Get Sufficient Sleep

Getting enough sleep helps the mind stay sharp and focused on the day ahead. It improves concentration and gives your brain time to rest so it can tackle problems in a more logical manner. If you’re rested, you’ll have more energy for the challenges of the day, rather than feeling overwhelmed by them.

Leave Work at Work

Be sure to unplug from work entirely on days off and when you’re away from the office. If your company has a bring-your-own-device policy, make sure not to check email or answer texts during your downtime unless it’s an emergency situation (and even then, do so sparingly).

Take Time Off

Whether you need a short vacation or a couple of sick days, take them. It can be difficult to admit that you’re burnt out and struggling with anxiety, but it’s better to take care of yourself than keep working until something breaks.

Take a Wellness Course

It’s never too late to learn more about how to stay healthy and increase productivity. Taking an online wellness course can help you learn healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Some helpful courses include:

Further Resources

HR is going through a period of rapid change. Workplaces are rethinking their role structure, and the expectations of HR teams are constantly rising. With a more complex job than ever, including managing generational differences, it’s inevitable that burnout is becoming an issue for many HR professionals.

The good news is that a lot of work is being done to help HR professionals manage and overcome burnout. The bad news is that much more could be done. Many companies still don’t take the issue seriously, and even if they do, they often don’t know how to address it. 

Read our e-book on HR burnout to learn more about why HR professionals are highly prone to burnout and the reasons behind it.

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