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HR and L&D professionals frequently feel overwhelmed by work-related stress, according to a People Management poll of more than 600 people – and their mental health may be under greater pressure than the population as a whole.

People Management’s biggest ever study of HR and L&D professionals, which polled 641 individuals in depth about their working lives, aspirations and personal background, found that 37 per cent felt ‘extremely stressed or overwhelmed’ because of work at least four times a month. A further 50 per cent said they were overwhelmed at least once a month.

But elsewhere, there was positivity about automation, flexible working and career progression that pointed to broader satisfaction with HR life.

The figures on stress suggest that work often has a detrimental effect on health. Overall, 44 per cent of respondents said their work was negative for their mental health, compared to just 26 per cent who said it was positive. These were similar to the figures for physical wellbeing (38 per cent and 20 per cent respectively).

Worryingly, the number of people reporting negative mental health was significantly higher than the 22 per cent of the working population as a whole who told the CIPD’s UK Working Lives survey that work was bad for them. While the wording of the questions was not directly comparable, it suggests that HR professionals may be under greater pressure than the average employee.

“It is noticeable that perceived levels of stress and concerns around mental and physical health are higher among our profession than we observe in the population as a whole,” CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said in the latest issue of the magazine. “This is such an important issue in the wider workforce today, but we must also make sure we look after ourselves – we can’t be the cobbler’s children.

“We need to ensure the proper training and support is in place to be able to manage our stress, particularly as we are also a key point of support for many in the workplace.”

But the profession is more optimistic when it comes to technology. Despite widespread predictions that large elements of HR roles could be supplanted by AI-powered software, 56 per cent of respondents said the effects of automation on HR would be largely positive and only 8 per cent were worried that it could replace their roles. On average, readers believed 30 per cent of their jobs could currently be performed by automated software.

Respondents reported embracing flexible working – 78 per cent said their employer offered some degree of flexibility, and 56 per cent of employees who were in flexible organisations worked from home at least some of the time.

There was also satisfaction with levels of investment in HR – 53 per cent said this had increased over five years – and personal pay and progression opportunities. More than two-thirds (67 per cent) said they were happy with their career to date, and 64 per cent felt they were paid adequately or more than adequately.

The changing nature of HR duties was also highlighted, with readers reporting that they spent an average of 32 per cent of their day answering emails and 22 per cent in meetings.

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