Working Lives: How to be resilient in the workplace

How to be resilient and flourish in social work practice The Social Work Task Force and Lord Laming's review of child protection emphasised the need...

Social work experts discuss how practitioners might handle stress in their workplaces

The Social Work Task Force and Lord Laming’s review of child protection emphasised the need for social workers to become more emotionally resilient in the face of stressful conditions.

In order to prepare students for a career in social work, the University of Bedfordshire has prepared the follwing practical tips on self care and coping with stress.


Managing complex social work practice requires effective supervision that provides time for reflection. Reflective supervision which enables the trainee and qualified social worker to learn lessons from practice as well as more about her/himself, is key to building resilience and managing stressful work.

Time Management

Learning how to manage a complex caseload demands practical skills that are often missing from social work training. Time management training is a simple yet effective strategy which can help social workers to take control of their workload and plan more effectively.

Support mechanisms.

Having the right support mechanisms in place from colleagues, family and friends is a key factor in building and maintaining resilience.

Emotional awareness

This is a key quality in resilient people. Everyone can feel anxious and upset from time to time. By paying attention to these feelings, recognising what is causing them and knowing how best to “repair” them to make yourself feel better, you are going a long way towards building resilience.

Relaxation and mindfulness

Ensuring that you take time out to relax and be mindful of the world around you is essential. Learning to be fully present in the moment rather than rushing from one crisis to the next can really help to enhance the way you manage stress.


Social work and social workers often get a bad press – it is all too easy to take these negative messages to heart and not recognise and celebrate things that go well. By focusing on the positive, whilst being realistic about why some situations did not go well despite your best efforts, will help you to remain optimistic, a key quality in resilient people.

Further reading:

Butler G and Hope T (2004) Manage Your Mind: The Mental Fitness Guide, Oxford university press

Howe D (2008) The Emotionally Intelligent Social Worker Basingstoke Palgrave Macmillan

Louise Grant is a senior lecturer in social work with 20 years’ experience in social work practice and management and Gail Kinman is Professor of occupational health psychology at the University of Bedfordshire.

This article is published in the 13 May 2010 edition of Community Care magazine under the headline How to be Resilient in the Workplace

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