The mental and emotional wellbeing of HR professionals in the UK has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels, with alarming figures indicating that they are facing greater challenges compared to their global counterparts.

A comprehensive three-year comparative research project conducted by Culture Amp, in collaboration with Thrive at Monash Business School, sheds light on the struggles faced by HR professionals in coping with the demanding economic and operating conditions of today.

The study, based on data gathered from 9,900 HR professionals worldwide – including 856 from the UK – between 3rd June 2020 and 4th June 2023, highlights the declining confidence of HR professionals in managing their personal and work life demands.

In 2020, at the onset of the pandemic, 45 percent of global HRs felt equipped to handle these demands, but this figure dropped to 40 percent in 2021 and 2022 during the height of lockdowns. Although there was a slight improvement to 44 percent worldwide in 2023, UK HR professionals continue to struggle, with only 40 percent feeling confident in balancing the diverse work and life demands placed on them.

Furthermore, the research found that UK HRs’ sense of purpose lags behind their global peers. In 2023, only 57 percent of UK HR professionals felt their work was making a positive difference to their company, compared to the global average of 61 percent. This disparity in purposeful work remains below the 62 percent average observed during the pandemic years (2020 – 2022).

A lack of support

Another key finding of the study is the lack of support reported by HR professionals in their roles. In 2020, 41 percent of HRs globally felt equipped to balance the demands of their HR responsibilities, but this percentage dipped to 38 percent in 2021-2022 before reaching 42 percent in 2023. This suggests that more than half of HR professionals still feel they are not receiving the necessary support to effectively perform their jobs.

Despite these concerning figures, the study did highlight some positive trends. A more resilient workforce seems to have emerged, with nearly twice as many UK HR professionals (58%) in 2023 reporting the ability to bounce back during challenging times at work, compared to 31 percent in 2020.

Additionally, the UK outperforms its European counterparts in terms of effectively disconnecting from work to make time for rest and relaxation, with 49 percent of UK HR professionals achieving this, compared to 33 percent in the Netherlands and 37 percent in DACH (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland).

Productivity and breaks

The survey data also reveals fluctuating experiences for HR professionals across various aspects of their roles. The percentage of HR professionals globally who felt productive at work dropped from 60 percent in 2020 to a pandemic low of 55 percent in 2021-2022 before recovering to 61 percent in 2023. Taking regular breaks to recharge remains a challenge for HR professionals, with only 44 percent able to do so in 2023, representing a marginal improvement from the average 40 percent in the previous three years.

Commenting on the findings, Arne Sjostrom, lead people scientist at Culture Amp, emphasised the toll that the pandemic has taken on HR professionals, leading to expanded remits and workloads without a proper support system in place. Sjostrom urges businesses to prioritise the wellbeing of their HR teams and provide them with the support they need to navigate current and future challenges effectively.

The study’s results serve as a clear call to action for organisations to address the mental health and wellbeing of their HR professionals. It also acts as a reminder for HR professionals themselves to prioritise self-care to protect their mental health and effectively support their organisations during these demanding times. With the insights gained from this research, businesses can take steps to ensure the wellbeing and success of their HR teams as they continue to navigate the complexities of the modern work environment.

 

 

 

 

Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.