The role of an HR professional can be demanding - physically and emotionally, with the need to be responsive leading to rapidly, and potentially punishing, changing schedules. Just as the cobbler’s child has battered shoes, HR professionals are often the worst at taking their own advice about the importance of balance, physical, and emotional well-being.
If you’ve forgotten the last time your evening passed uninterrupted, or you got through a weekend without spending time clearing emails, then perhaps it’s time for a few reminders.
Practice what you preach
Many HR roles are field based, and the possibility to work from home round the clock increases the need for structure and discipline. Set your limits, whether that’s not accepting calls after seven, or switching the blackberry off to have lunch. What works will vary by role, but by setting an example for others about maintaining some balance you’ll help your colleagues as well as yourself.
Be clear on what you’re in work to achieve, do it, and then relax. Remember, productivity is not proportional to visibility, and can in fact be the opposite. Whatever limits you set yourself, share them with others and suggest they try the same.
Look after yourself
Being in top physical shape helps cope with a hectic schedule - and if you’re off form, give yourself time to recover. Presenteeism - attending work despite being unwell - is a real issue, and there is no heroism in passing your illness on to others.
Look after yourself mentally also, the job can be emotionally draining, as HR professionals can become the bearers of bad news, and the ’listening ear’ for all manner of issues (believe me, we all have the toe curling stories!). It can help enormously to have appropriate confidantes at work to talk to if you need to let off steam. Bounce ideas off each other, and ask if your colleagues look like they’d benefit from a chat - don’t let it become a moan session, but by working through issues and difficult conversations with a colleague they often feel infinitely more manageable.
Have a realistic view of what you can achieve. Many HR roles, such as those in the business partner model, leave HR professionals feeling that they’re at the beck and call of their operational partners. A day can become a series of ’five minute’ meetings and calls which are arranged with no notice and add to throw your own personal schedule off kilter. If you find yourself only sitting down to tackle your own planned activities for the day once everyone has left the office, you need to wrestle back control.
Set aside time to manage your routine tasks and admin, and if it’s not a good time for a conversation - say so, and schedule an appointment to suit you both.
Work out how to unwind
Finally, and especially in roles such as Employee Relations or Organisational Design which can be particularly draining, make sure you have your personal strategies to unwind in a healthy way. Have a buffer between work and home, even if that’s just putting some music on during your train ride home, of chewing the fat on your drive - if you’ve spent your day being emotionally drained, don’t take that feeling home with you. A few minutes to reset can be all it takes to walk through your door feeling human again.
When considering the work - life balance as a HR professional, it is important to remember people follow your feet more than your lips. If you set a great example of a productive balance that works for you, others will notice and follow.