Seven signs your HR department is overwhelmed | Moorepay
May 1, 2023

Seven signs your HR department is overwhelmed

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Your HR department plays a vital role in employee engagement, experience, and well-being. But when administrative tasks become burdensome, it can impact morale, productivity, and even mental health.

Yet struggling HR staff might be the last people in your business to put their hands up and call for help. After all, they’re the ones meant to be playing the support role themselves…

So, how do you know when your HR department is overwhelmed? Here are seven signs that suggest your HR team is nearing burnout and how it could affect your business, along with steps on how to address the issue.

Paperwork pileup

A never-ending stack of paperwork indicates overwhelm within HR – and the backlog won’t just be affecting your team, either. Indeed, if HR is struggling to stay on top of paperwork, it can have significant consequences for the business – with legal documents and contracts going unchecked, unsigned, or even missing.

It could be affecting employee engagement too, with new starters not getting the onboarding support they need or facing an anxious wait for their employment contract to be finalised.

Compliance neglect

In certain sectors, it’s essential that your workforce is accredited to the latest industry standards – and maintaining workers’ certification is critical.

Falling behind on the latest standards could mean your business losing its affiliation with key industry bodies, but that’s exactly what will happen if your HR teams don’t have time to keep up to date with the latest requirements.

When workers start dropping out of compliance, or come dangerously close to it, it’s time to recognise that your HR department is overwhelmed.

‘Us vs them’ mentality

Whether it’s laying down the law on workplace policy or undertaking disciplinary action against an employee, there comes a time when every HR team must play the role of ‘enforcer’.

When this seems to become your department’s principal role, an unhealthy relationship can develop between HR and the wider workforce.

In an ideal world, the focus within HR should always be on the more positive aspects of the job – such as supporting new starters, building the business through talent retention, or enhancing the employee experience.

If that’s not how your HR staff sees things, it’s an attitude that likely stems from not having the time to do the parts of the job they love.

Visible stress signs

If your normally mild-mannered HR staff start getting snappy or agitated at work, it would be easy to put it down to problems at home – or maybe just not enough sleep.

And maybe you’d be right. But even so, those problems could well develop from being overworked, up-late responding to emails or a generally failing work-life balance.

HR staff calling in sick could be another warning sign. Whether for genuine reasons or not, it could point to their workload being just too much to handle.

Why not check out our guide on managing stress in the workplace?

Performance decline

Poor performance can be attributed to several factors, not least human nature – after all, everyone makes mistakes. But if a usually dependable member of the team starts making regular basic errors, it’s fair to assume they could be suffering from some kind of burnout.

That could mean they’re simply overworked, or perhaps not enjoying and taking pride in their work anymore – going through the motions rather than being actively engaged in what they’re doing.

That disengagement could show itself in a lack of communication with colleagues too, or a reluctance to contribute to meetings and brainstorming sessions.

Cutting corners

If your HR processes are heavily manual and repetitive, it may just be a matter of time before you see a drop-off in discipline.

An overwhelmed employee will begin cutting corners wherever possible and likely fall behind on any non-essential admin tasks, such as record keeping.

Don’t assume it’s just laziness – it may well be that your team can’t find enough hours in the day to complete the processes to the letter.

Cynicism and complaints

Finally, keep an ear out for the complaints – which is perhaps the most obvious sign of all that there’s disenchantment in the office.

Persistent negativity, especially from a previously positive and upbeat member of the team, is a clear signal that the stress of the job is getting to them.

Worse still, it will only serve to bring the rest of the team’s morale down too.

Addressing the problem

As a HR leader, it’s essential to proactively address signs of overwhelm within your team. Start by having open conversations with team members to understand their challenges, personal or professional, and explore potential solutions.

Providing support, implementing flexible work arrangements, and leveraging technology to streamline processes can help alleviate the burden on HR staff and promote a healthier, more productive workplace.

Keen to know more about improving HR functions? Here’s some articles we think you might like:

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About the author

Rob Woodward

Originally a performer with a background in screen and playwriting, Rob has transferred his creative writing skills into the content marketing domain. Rob is responsible for the creation of our HR & payroll content, as well as the delivery of our customer communications.