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Whilst social workers aim to improve the lives of others, with a major focus on human rights and overall wellbeing, it’s also important they also receive assistance. It’s a stressful job and requires a lot of hard work and commitment. As such, social workers should have access to support all day, every day. And in this article we explain why.
It’s essential that social workers look after themselves. There are limits and avoiding burnout can ensure they do their job to a greater extent.
This is a longstanding issue with many in the industry, with NHS nurses reportedly quitting as they’re burned out and suffering from excessive workloads. That report is from June 3rd in The Guardian, which back in 2013 highlighted the need for looking for warning signs.
In social workers must look after themselves and recognise their limits Dr Paula McFadden states:
“Emotional exhaustion and a lack of personal accomplishment leads to a lowering of resilience in social workers. Further analysis found a chain of events that begin with excessive workloads. Workload was found to be a predictor of emotional exhaustion. Emotional exhaustion was a predictor of de-personalisation, and this was then related to lower levels of personal accomplishment about the job.”
As Dr McFadden confirms:
“Social workers and their employers must recognise their personal limits and look after themselves first if they are to help others.”
And whilst they can do that by living a healthy lifestyle—eating the right foods, taking the right downtime, and getting enough sleep—they also need to ensure they look after their mental health.
Signs and symptoms of stress
The reasons why this needs addressing are clear. The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) conducted a report in 2017 and found half of social workers were intending to leave the profession.
This report also found over £600 million of unpaid overtime had been created by social workers.
Social workers do an important job for communities and help to further the progressive path of modern society. But they should also have access to wellbeing opportunities to ensure they can continue doing their jobs.
The trick is to look out for issues before they develop into something uncontrollable. Signs and symptoms of stress include:
An increase in sick days.
Turning to comfort food or alcohol for support.
Once these issues begin manifesting—often with many simultaneously—then the situation can head into a downward spiral.
As such, it’s important to address stress as soon as possible. In the long-term, this can create a better work-life balance and reduce the amount of stress a social worker deals with.
Techniques to encouraging recovery
The best thing anyone can do is tackle the situation with the right steps. Some of these we covered earlier, but below we’ll clarify more of the options available.
Refer to an EPA—employee assistance program. These can be enormously beneficial in ensuring all staff members stay happy and focussed.
Be healthly, which includes taking regular exercise, eating well, drinking the right drinks (lots of water, tea etc.), and getting a good sleeping pattern established.
Rediscover the joys of a personal life. Embracing the joys of a night out at a restaurant with friends is, as one example, a great way to restore personal time. This will, in turn, ensure a return to full health and productivity.
Take regular time off. Unwind at the weekends and enjoy some much deserved holiday time as and when you need it. If social workers put an aspect of their personal life first, it can offer a significant boost.
Set boundaries with clients and colleagues. Social workers shouldn’t feel the need to work unsociable hours that will only ever damage their mental health. As such, they should take control and make it clear the hours they’re willing to work.
So, why is this all important? As it keeps our social workers healthy and happier. In the long-term, that keeps them in their roles and helping those around them for the good of society.