HR is a Lonely Profession — Here’s Why
There’s no question that working in Human Resources can be deeply rewarding and fulfilling. HR professionals play a critical role in creating a positive work environment where employees can thrive, and they also contribute a great deal to the success of the organization.
One way that HR workers are making a notable impact is by helping employees improve their mental health. In a recent survey from isolved, 86% of HR leaders said they support the mental health of their workforce, for example by offering paid mental health days (47%), providing flexible work arrangements (46%), limiting work during non-business hours (37%), offering company-led support groups (35%), or implementing a 4-day work week (30%).
The fact is, HR staff are expected to support all aspects of employee well-being — but all too often, no one is looking after their well-being. A recent report by Workvivo suggests that 98% of HR professionals are facing burnout, which is strongly linked to feeling isolated and unsupported. This could be having an enormous impact on these key team members as well as their employers, since research finds that lonely workers are less productive and engaged, and five times more likely to miss work due to stress.
Although it seems counterintuitive that a profession focused on helping people would be so isolating, much of this stems from the nature of the work. HR staff are often tasked with handling sensitive employee matters like layoffs or terminations, disciplinary action or investigations, performance evaluations, and payroll matters. They may also be privy to sensitive health information.
In today’s article I’ll explore what makes HR such a lonely profession. I’ll also offer 3 suggestions for how HR employees can overcome this issue, for example by joining an online community like isolved’s People Heroes Community. Let’s take a look.
Why is HR such a lonely profession?
Although working in HR can be rewarding, it can also be extremely lonely. HR professionals have to maintain a high level of confidentiality, which can isolate them and limit their social interaction with other employees. While most people might not think twice about joining their coworkers for a happy hour, an HR team member might avoid these gatherings because of how much they know about other employees.
In addition, HR staff may not get to participate in social events like most employees do. One woman who works in HR described how her role at holiday parties was to make sure people didn’t consume too much alcohol and made it home safely.
“In essence, I was the police patrol,” she shared. “Instead of being an employee attending a company holiday gathering, I was responsible for the health and safety of our employees — protecting them and minimizing any risk to the company. Amidst the laughter and smiles of the party, I was alone.”
HR professionals also need to be careful about developing friendships at work or showing any kind of preferential treatment toward employees. It’s far too easy for others to perceive that an employee might be unfairly benefiting from this relationship, especially since HR often plays a role in determining promotions, raises, or bonuses.
Another reason many people in this profession feel lonely is because they’re typically viewed as part of management. This can create a sense of distance between them and other employees, who may see them as representing the interests of the company rather than the employees. Without even realizing it, HR workers may find themselves excluded from the informal “water cooler chats” that can form the basis for deeper relationships at work.
These team members may even be openly disliked or hated. If you’ve ever been fired or let go, an HR employee was most likely involved, and you probably walked away with a negative impression of that person. But the reality is that they usually have nothing to do with these decisions, yet they must cope with immense feelings of guilt due to their role in passing along information that can significantly alter people’s lives.
Tackling loneliness in HR
If you work in HR, it’s possible you’ll find ways to successfully navigate having friendships with non-HR employees at your organization. However, the best way to deal with the unique challenges you face is to connect with other HR professionals, either at your own company or externally.
Here are 3 ideas to help you find the support you need:
1. Join an online HR community
In today’s remote workplace, many HR professionals are connecting with each other in online communities. These communities typically offer industry thought leadership, content, and insights, as well as digital and in-person events. And of course, they provide abundant opportunities for networking and relationship-building.
For example, isolved offers a People Heroes Community for its clients, where HR professionals can source advice from fellow “people heroes,” socialize with industry peers, and share their own experiences. Members in this community are highly engaged, with many saying they feel like they’re part of something for the first time.
2. Look for local groups and meet-ups
If you’re interested in spending time in-person with others who work in HR, you might be surprised to find that there are numerous options in your area. For example, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has local chapters that hold regular networking events and gatherings.
Or check out the MeetUp app, which has HR groups in locations across the world. Depending on where you’re located, you may even find a group tailored to your specific area of expertise, whether that’s recruiting, strategic HR, benefits and rewards, and more.
3. Find a coach or mentor
While HR communities offer a great way for you to connect with your peers, you may want more personalized, one-on-one support. Hiring a coach or finding a mentor can provide this type of support, whether you need advice and resources, or if you’re just looking for someone to vent to.
Your coach or mentor may also be able to introduce you to other HR professionals who are dealing with the same issues that you are, or are a good fit for you based on your personality and other interests. And if these connections are a good match, there’s an excellent chance you’ll go on to develop real, lasting friendships with these individuals.
From loneliness to connectedness
While working in HR is immensely rewarding, it has its drawbacks as well, including a heightened sense of isolation and loneliness. If you work in this profession, I hope you’ll look into joining an online community or finding other ways to connect with your peers. Not only will this benefit you personally by reducing your stress and improving your mental health, but it will also help you navigate some of the unique challenges you face in your role.
Thanks for reading — be sure to join the conversation on LinkedIn and let me know your thoughts on this topic!