As a human resources leader, it can be easy to fall into working on the weekends — when it comes to employee management or wellbeing, there’s always something to do. Closing your email on Friday evening might feel impossible, and you might catch yourself approving time off requests, diving into compensation spreadsheets, or putting together a deck on workplace health and safety in your free time.
But working on weekends comes with serious consequences, like burnout, and you might actually be harming your employees instead of helping them. So how can you balance wanting to take care of your team and protect your time away from the office?
When and Why HR Should Not Work on Weekends
As it turns out, stepping back on the weekends can be — in most cases — a critical way to take care of yourself and your employees. (I’ll get into the exceptions and nuances, too.)
Here’s what I mean: If your team has the weekends off but their inboxes are running wild with messages from HR, they don’t really have those two days free. If HR employees are obviously on-the-job during leisure time, it sets the expectation that your whole team should be working, and what’s more: It creates a scenario that requires everyone to be constantly available.
That’s not healthy for your team or for you as an HR leader. As a general rule, HR should try not to work on weekends whenever possible.
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Here’s When an HR Team Should Work on the Weekends
When the Company Burns the Midnight Oil
But. Remember those exceptions I mentioned? No rule or solution fits every organization, and there are plenty of nuances to this conversation.
Let’s say you lead the HR team at a manufacturing plant that runs 24/7. The operation is split into three shifts, and the plant is constantly buzzing with action, even into the wee hours of the night. In that case, having HR available during business hours — which is to say, all the time — shows that the department responsible for employee wellbeing is working alongside plant staff. Think about how impactful that is for employees. It sends a message of commitment and support: If you’re here, I’m here, too.
There’s a critical caveat here: I don’t mean that HR employees who have 40-hour per week contracts should maintain plant hours and run into their off time. Instead, I’m suggesting that the organization create paid shifts for extra human resources team members that keep up with the organization’s business hours, or at least most of them. Plant employees are entitled to support, and the HR team who will work alongside them should be compensated — and given their own, mid-week “weekend.”
When Emergencies Happen
Even if your organization maintains a Monday–Friday, 9:00–5:00 schedule, there are rare instances that require weekend work from HR. A major crisis or emergency that impacts the company — like a natural disaster, serious work accident, or security issue — demands that HR spring into action regardless of the hour to assist employees, provide support, or coordinate responses. When it comes to the safety of your team, it’s reasonable to expect to put in some extra, unscheduled time.
There are also major disciplinary issues that could require an emergency response, like when an employee shows up to the job intoxicated. Actions like probation, suspension, or even termination means upheaval for your team, so they’ll need you in full force. In these uncommon yet serious events, HR should expect to roll their sleeves up and get to work supporting their team.
The Better Question to Ask
So, should HR work on weekends? A better way of thinking about it might be: Should HR work when the rest of the organization is clocked out? In that case, the answer is no — mostly. Setting boundaries like not responding to non-urgent emails and definitely not sending out non-urgent communications are a critical way that HR leaders and managers can model balance to their team — and respect their team’s time away from the office. Remember that treating employees as whole people with lives outside of the company is the ticket to showing respect and care, and it makes clear to employees just how much you value them. And while you’re at it, treat yourself with the same care — you and your time off matter, too.