Helen Donnellan and Gordon Jack explain how social workers can take control of their workloads
The Social Work Reform Programme in England is asking employers to assess their caseload controls for frontline workers and publish the results. In the meantime, social work staff can do their bit.
1. Organise your workload. This means being clear about priorities: for example, group tasks into one of four categories – essential, important, routine, interest – as part of your own system to track and review progress.
2. Set deadlines for important pieces of work. Mark a date in your diary to keep on track or to prompt you to reschedule your workload.
3. Establish a healthy work-life balance. There is evidence that people who work extended hours do not necessarily end up producing more. Minimise the occasions on which you extend your working day or take work home.
4. Delegate or share your work. This is an integral part of professional practice. Separating out the tasks which can be done only by you and those that can be undertaken by others makes sense.
5. Learn to say “no”. Resisting the urge to prove your commitment by accepting every task offered to you is an important skill. You can be professional and collegiate and still keep the demands on your time within reasonable limits. Ensure you do not become the victim of a pincer movement between the demands of a busy job and other people’s needs.
6. Keep a diary of your time spent on different tasks. Identify the tasks relevant to your own post and review the balance of your time used between them over, say, two weeks. Some numerical data describing an average week may help you to avoid a distorted impression of your day-to-day activities and could be used to inform supervision discussions about your overall workload and future development.
Helen Donnellan is a project manager and researcher at the University of Plymouth and is involved in post-qualifying education and training for social workers. Gordon Jack has more than 30 years’ experience in social work practice, education and research. He is reader in social work at Durham University
Taken from The Survival Guide for Newly Qualified Child and Family Social Workers – Hitting the Ground Running, by Helen Donnellan and Gordon Jack, published November 2009 by Jessica Kingsley. To order a copy at the special reader offer price of £17.99 visit www.jkp.com and enter the promotional code CCNSQW.
This article is published in the 18 February issue of Community Care magazine.