Dear Social Workers,
How often have you been on vacation only to receive a text or phone call from the office?
Have you experienced the limited ability to perform your social work responsibilities due to inadequate financial supports in the workplace?
Have you had to cope with unaddressed challenges such as workplace bullying and toxic environments?
Have you consistently been given new responsibilities without any financial enhancements or release from any previous responsibilities?
Have you coped with burnout, vicarious trauma, and/or secondary traumatic stress without workplace leadership noticing the warning signs?
What steps are needed to promote a system of self-care for social work professionals? Oftentimes, self-care is “solely” perceived as the responsibility of the individual. However, the ability to fully engage in and sustain methods of self-care is a systemic issue. As a result, entities that employ social workers, as well as those in leadership, decision-making, and policy change positions can implement steps to change systems. In other words, creating policies and procedures that acknowledge and integrate self-care as a normalized component of workplace functions.
Below, lists just a "few" brainstormed ways this can take place:
Evaluate the employing entity (e.g., academic institutions, agencies, organizations, etc.) policies and integrate wording in response to self-care needs of social work professionals
Integrate procedures that address and properly disseminate caseload (e.g., agency) or course load and class sizes (e.g., academic institution) in alignment with best practices and accreditation requirements
Employ recruitment, retention, training, and workplace motivation processes that are proactive
Coordinate and support grant writing or other financial opportunity trainings as methods to obtain additional funding in response to workplace needs and development of further job positions
Provide ongoing leadership trainings to ensure maintenance of boundaries between workplace leadership and employees' personal time
Ensuring workplace processes are in place that honor employees’ personal days/time, vacations, and mental health days
Implement proactive versus reactive methods to decrease factors that contribute to burnout and other issues that negatively impact employee performance
Acknowledge and provide forms of support for the role of field supervisors taking on the responsibility of training new social workers through overseeing internships and coordinating with colleges and universities
These are just a few initial ideas, there are so many more. Individual self-care processes are critical as these are unique to the individual. However, the system of self-care within the workplace is necessary, and needs to be integrated in a sustainable manner.
What are the next steps for self-care processes to be recognized as a priority in the workplace?