Heroes without capes, sometimes infamous for turning advocates for their organisation, the human resources professionals quintessentially work behind the scenes. So how do these professionals manage to surf the high tide everyday and deal with the sunburn?
Human resources serves a host of functions for a company and is a vital link between the employees and the management. As workplace culture keeps them on their toes, and senior HR roles in particular see a shift in workplace ethics, HR heads have more stress added to their daily schedule.
The heart of any unruffled and poised HR head lies in enjoying what she/he does. Agrees Rajorshi Ganguli, president and HR head, Alkem Laboratories, “One will find the work stressful only when one doesn’t enjoy the work, even with its day-to-day challenges.”
“Our bodies are designed in a way that we need ‘X hours’ to refresh after every ‘Y hours’ of effort. Managing stress is all about managing the X+Y = 24 hours equation”
Challenges abound as the traditional role of the HR has evolved. In fact, it is more in the limelight now, as organisations are restructuring the way they function. The tendency for them to get drawn into ‘non-value-added conflicts’ arising among peers, and thereby being visible for the wrong reasons — ‘negative visibility’ as Debjani Roy, CHRO, Mind Your Fleet puts it — is a major cause for stress. There is also a tendency for the HR to become ‘power centres’ when they take sides during disputes and partake in office politics. The HR focusing more on being visible, compromises their unbiased delivery of duties, turning the whole thing into a skirmish, and of course if it’s a team member, the HR head of a company bears the brunt.
There has been a significant shift in the way HR professionals choose to ‘refresh’ aside from their usual daily quota of indulging in exercises, hobbies and switching off after work. “We were actually tutored, and have mastered the act of taking the workload from people and going through behavioural labs, cleansing processes and destressing sessions,” muses Roy. These “refresher courses are taken up by HR professionals to hone their craft. Studying for the courses serves as a breather from the daily work routine. Such courses are almost ‘therapeutic’ and restore the much-needed countenance and balance HR leaders need for their daily work.”
“It’s important to take care of oneself and when one switches off from work, one should switch off fully.”
It is important to have clear-cut boundaries for the topnotch HR as well, especially when the onus of overseeing employees and their company’s wellbeing rests on them. “My process has always been to tell the time, and build the clock,” reveals Ganesh Subramanian, CHRO, More Retail. He points out how preventing the fire is as important for an HR head, as extinguishing the fire to build a strong foundation.
“Our bodies are designed in a way that we need ‘X hours’ to refresh after every ‘Y hours’ of effort. If we do not get those ‘X hours’ over a prolonged period, it leads to stress and burnout. Managing stress is all about holistic balance of mind, body and soul — managing the X+Y = 24 hours equation,” says Amit Das, director-HR and CHRO, Bennett Coleman Co Ltd (Times of India group). Having watertight boundaries separating work from personal life, and putting into practice ‘future proof’ business practices will curb any major blowups that may put more on the plate for HR professionals than what they bargained for.
“There is also a tendency for the HR to become ‘power centres’ when they take sides during disputes and partake in office politics. The HR focusing more on being visible, compromises free and unbiased delivery of duties.”
For most HR, a stressful day at work is solved through introspection and feedback from employees. Roy and Subramanian agree, that introspection is an integral part of their destressing cycle, especially after a hectic day at work, when things do not go exactly as planned, or as expected.
Now comes the question, who exactly do the HR turn to when they need guidance?
Every HR professional starts from somewhere, be it as an assistant manager or a corporate manager (HR), a network of mentors, friends, peers and colleagues in other fields. This network keeps them grounded and offers honest feedback for them without sugarcoating the bitter pill that may be hiding in plain sight.
“One will find the work stressful only when one doesn’t enjoy the work, even with its day-to-day challenges.”
There’s always a risk of the professional spilling into the personal, as flexible working has caused a shift in schedule, often leading to overtime. “It’s important to take care of oneself and when one switches off from work, one should switch off fully,” recommends Subramanian as a means to keep work from infiltrating into personal hours. For More Retail, there are measures in place that enable employees, HR included, to unwind and relax — yoga classes to be exact. Conscious efforts towards not scheduling meetings on weekends or in the evenings, unless there is a dire need to do so are also practised.
Even King Solomon required the trusted counsel of courtiers during a crisis or dilemma. For the HR leadership, this guidance comes from their trusted personnel and the wise, sincere and unpretentious counsel of a reliable person, not to mention their bosses, to whom they report.