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If you’ve been feeling rising pressure from an increased workload over the past year, you’re not alone.

Having just emerged from 12 challenging months wrought by the pandemic, new research from employee experience platform Culture Amp revealed that HR is largely unprepared for the year ahead and is experiencing rising stress.

These findings revealed that just 43% of responding HR professionals feel that their levels of stress are manageable as well as alluding to other disturbing signs of burnout in the HR professional community.

While the majority of respondents surveyed (93%) felt supported by their senior leaders’ response to the pandemic, just over half of respondents said they don't have enough staff to address the necessary changes.

“This lack of resource allocation may be a result of both the financial difficulties caused by the pandemic but also a mistaken belief that the pandemic would end swiftly reducing the ROI of greater investments in HR teams,” the research states.

In terms of workforce planning, the research revealed that more than a third (37%) of HR professionals across a range of industries have halted new hires or have considered imposing a hiring freeze.

The study also focused on how changing work models have heaped more pressure on HR. Prior to the outbreak, just 5% of organisations had most employees working remotely. But in the current work climate, 75% said that most employees are working remotely.

This shift is something that HR, along with other business functions, has had to grapple with amid the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

While HR has been given responsibility to oversee many workplace changes over the past 12 months – including WFH, employee engagement and wellbeing in a virtual setting – the research found that size of HR teams within organisations has remained largely static, despite the increase to workloads.

According to Kenneth Matos, the director of People Science at Culture Amp, the Covid-19 crisis has forced many changes upon companies that have heaped extra pressure on HR to “solve unprecedented problems".

He explained that HR could become “effective change agents”, teams need to develop a strategy that factors in both short- and long-term needs – in addition to sufficient support, resources and cooperation for key areas of the business.

“A well-equipped HR function can then make judicious decisions and effectively implement them as they adapt their employee feedback strategy, performance management, headcount plans, and policies to support employees – while helping maintain their own sense of wellbeing at the same time,” Matos told HR Grapevine.

Additionally, more than three-quarters (77%) of those surveyed believe that managers are adapting well to the changes caused by Covid-19 but – based on survey comments – the remaining 23% believe managers would benefit from initiatives aimed at refining communication and collaboration, adapting management behaviours to remote work and support resources for themselves and their teams.

Additionally, more than a third of respondents (36%) are unclear on how to measure the effectiveness of their COVID-19 adaptations, due to a lack of impact metrics.

The study, How companies are embracing a new future, surveyed 400-plus HR professionals across North America, Europe and APAC.