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The Social Worker Wellbeing Action Plan

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The Social Worker Wellbeing Action Plan

UK social worker jobs are some of the most emotionally demanding. The day-to-day reality of supporting individuals and families through incredibly difficult circumstances can take its toll. Without proper self-care, the risk of burnout looms large.

However, with intentional prevention strategies and a workplace culture that values social worker wellbeing, social work professionals can sustain fulfilling careers.

There’s been some positive headway in this area in recent times. The latest national employer standards report shows there’s been an increase in social worker positive scores for Standard 4 Wellbeing, from 76% in 2021 to almost 80% in 2022. We think that’s an incredibly positive development that speaks to the dedication to wellbeing that employers are putting into the workplace.

Supporting social worker wellbeing is an ongoing process, one that involves both individual social workers and their employers. Here are some strategies that can help social workers find the right equilibrium.

Put Your Oxygen Mask on First

As a social worker, you might feel guilty at times about taking time for self-care. However, skimping on this can diminish your ability to serve clients effectively.

It’s important to focus on physical wellbeing by eating and sleeping well, exercising and taking adequate breaks throughout the working day, but there’s much to be said for regularly undertaking ‘pause and reflect’ sessions as well. It’s a fantastic way to regain clarity when under pressure.

These reflection sessions take many forms. On an individual basis, this wellbeing checklist on page 20 is a great starting point for recognising signs that could lead to burnout. It contains a series of questions to ask and reflect upon on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Social workers can also combine their CPD with their reflection practice by undertaking training focused on mindfulness and strategies to maintain their wellbeing.

For managers, hosting regular peer and team group reflection sessions is also a helpful approach to nurturing an open and trusting work environment.

Recently, The British Association of Social Workers, Bath Spa University and the Social Workers Union surveyed 5,000 social workers about their roles, finding they place a very high value on peer and colleague relationships.

As such, spending time with colleagues in less formal settings is an important way to look after wellbeing. Celebrating birthdays, group lunches, trivia/board game nights and cultural potlucks are just a few ideas, all with the support from management.

Social workers often overhear difficult conversations others are having. The research study found that at such times, the value of checking in with your peers is immense. It might be just a simple ‘how are you?’, or a suggestion to go for a short walk around the block.

Welcoming the Wellbeing Champions

Some good news is that the number of UK councils and providers embedding Wellbeing Champions within their workforce has increased significantly. Wellbeing Champions have an interest in mental health and wish to support their colleagues by strengthening workplace mental health safeguards.

Their activities can include:

•Proactively assessing wellbeing needs in the workplace

•Campaigning for new programmes/policies

•Specific wellbeing champion training

•Liaising with wellbeing partners such as training organisations

•Raising awareness of wellbeing initiatives

A Wellbeing Champion’s role can vary quite a bit from one organisation to the next, so customising their role for the local environment is important for success.

For instance, Devon County Council has over 30 wellbeing supporters in their network. Each one is encouraged to lead by example with the full support of their managers. They engage in short wellbeing training sessions every four weeks to help them directly support employees, and have access to a raft of resources for themselves, such as a Wellbeing Supporters Teams Channel, and a Wellbeing Coordinator.

West Sussex Council have Mental Health First Aiders, a role that is an adjunct to a Wellbeing Champion. Mental Health First Aiders undertake specialised training that equips them to respond compassionately to acute staff mental health crises – spotting warning signs, listening non-judgementally, and guiding referrals.

Utilise Technology to Reduce Workloads

One of the most difficult parts of a social worker’s job is having too much to do with too little time. This causes significant stress, leading to exhaustion and often burnout.

Technology can reduce the time-consuming administrative burden social workers face. A recent pilot study with social workers in two local authorities in Brent and Coventry trialled the use of dictation software to see if could provide time savings in daily tasks.

While it was a short trial of just four weeks, there was a consensus that it was best used for recording notes following a visit. This saved time and resulted in better notes as it could be done directly after the visit, while it was still fresh in their minds.

Of those who used the app regularly, most said the more time they invested in using it, the more comfortable they became with it, and the more time they saved. While the results of this pilot aren’t definitive, it suggests dictation software could be an effective way to allow social workers to win back some time in their work day. The authors of the pilot suggest that for widespread adoption to occur, dictation software must be:

•Available on both mobile and laptop

•Be able to handle difficult patient name spellings when transcribing

•Integrate with the LA’s case management system

Social workers would also need to be given adequate training and time to use it to reap time-saving benefits.

Social Care Recruitment and Wellbeing Support

These three social worker wellbeing strategies provide real avenues for finding wellbeing equilibrium and reducing social worker burnout. As the UK’s leading social care recruitment agency, we can also help with this balance.

Whether it’s advice to inform your wellbeing initiatives or support in filling your open social worker jobs to ease your team’s workload, feel free to connect with one of our specialists today to find out more.