Social workers: let us know how car parking and hotdesking affects your job

Community Care wants to understand how the daily lives of social workers is impacted by car parking and hotdesking challenges

Photo: dragonstock/fotolia

To better understand the challenges posed by hotdesking policies and the issues that social workers can find with car parking, Community Care is asking social workers to take a short survey on their experiences of parking as part of their job and of hotdesking.

Issues with hotdesking were highlighted in 2016, when Eileen Munro said hotdesking policies were harming social work and Community Care research at the time found more than half of child protection social workers were required to hotdesk.

Take our survey

The survey should take no longer than four minutes to complete and findings will be published on Community Care in the near future. You can take the survey here.

Community Care’s retention risk tool, among many areas, looks specifically at the impact of car parking and hotdesking issues on social workers’ wellbeing and the risk that poses to a local authority looking to keep them in the workforce.

We want to know what you think of hotdesking, how it may or may not impact on your working life, and about your experiences of car parking as part of your role. We also want to identify what social workers see as practical solutions to try and resolve the challenges these working policies can cause, and any recommendations their employer can consider.

33 Responses to Social workers: let us know how car parking and hotdesking affects your job

  1. Jackie Johnston January 31, 2019 at 5:27 pm #

    I have worked in many different places throughout the UK. I have found that hot decking works ok if you have enough desks on key days or at key times. If they aren’t available it turns normally friendly and helpful people into desk demons!! l think it works better when you are able to work from home.

    The downside is you often find you have to work at very very dirty and dusty desks which are cluttered and you are often not able to use desks which have been set up for specific difficulties i.e. dyslexia and disabilities.

    Car parking is an on going nightmare in most places. I have only came across a couple of exceptions. Again working from home solves a lot of the problems.

    • Sue Sheard January 31, 2019 at 7:38 pm #

      Home should be home and not a place where you bring your work stress too. Simple solution is to give social workers the appropriate tools to do the job and thus includes a desk, computer car space and colleagues around you to support you. Simple really

      • Daniel Powner February 2, 2019 at 6:44 am #

        I couldn’t agree more

    • Isobel Brown January 31, 2019 at 9:05 pm #

      The issue with hot desking is not only the number of desks, it is the fact that it totally destroys any team identity. Being part of a team is crucial in SW. It’s how new workers learn. It’s how we support each other in times of crisis. It’s how we support service users when their allocated worker is absent. Hot desking has completely destroyed the sense of being part of a team in so many authorities.

      • Mary Monaghan January 31, 2019 at 10:48 pm #

        Couldn’t agree more Isobel, a Social Worker’s job is a very stressful one, having a team around you who know your caseload, who can offer support when you’re not there because they’re familiar with your service users is invaluable.
        However, when you’ve had a particularly stressful day and you can go back to the office, sit st your desk and your colleague makes you a coffee and listens to you offloading, sometimes offering valuable advice, is priceless! It was how I coped with many difficult days.
        These days there’s no support for workers, most Social Workers will carry on regardless as long as they know that they’ve got a Manager who’ll support them regardless, but unfortunately that’s not a given in this current culture

  2. Lorna Walton January 31, 2019 at 8:04 pm #

    I get blocked in the carpark allocated for my place of work. So I’m late for appointments.get shouted out. then parking tickets whilst either on home visits or meetings. It’s very stressful.
    Hot dealing !!! Makes me feel like I don’t belong and unsettled. As a agency worker I’m bottom of the pile.

  3. Jocelyn January 31, 2019 at 8:22 pm #

    Its a nightmare. Hotdesking divide teams. Turns nice helping professionals into monsters. It is disrepectful not to have a space in work since we spend most of our time in work.
    Car parking for disabled staff is a nightmare.

  4. Ellie B January 31, 2019 at 8:44 pm #

    There is so much information and so many changes to contemplate and navigate;. I need a home for my info, where I can access and make reference to it. It supports evidence based practice, it builds on knowledge, it guides me when making desisons. When hotdesking I find you inherit other people’s belongings, the space is not your own, access to my information is impeded. I’m sure this is not the same for everyone, but I like a sense of order and hot desking dealing disrupts that order, especially if there are no desks available. Unfortunately, we have to work with the expectation that this may be a requirement of the role.

  5. Carol Anne Duane January 31, 2019 at 8:57 pm #

    Car parking is a nightmare , there are very few car park spaces for social workers but people who are in the office all day ie IT workers get parking spaces. Having to carry bags including laptop all the connections , cup , milk coffee etc as no supplies hotdesking, cleaning wipes and a telephone. As well as handbag and lunch is a real balance , trolley bags can be heard for miles chopping into ankles etc and then you have to lift it up the steps and also heave it into the car in between visits . Walking across town in the rain and knowing yo will be going out again in an hour is heart sinking and this could be up to three times a day. You end up wet through looking for a hot desk,
    well sometimes calling it a desk is misleading it may be a table or shelf. Usually filthy and needs cleaning even before you can attach your 5 connectors and make sure all are in the right portal. No one takes any responsibility and don’t always report when terminals are not working , you cant ring IT due to the phone having to connect to the laptop , no landlines , after you have crawled under the desk to get what IT need to report fault you realise you need to get back to the car, rush back on park and ride to find a bright yellow sticker saying you need to pat within 7 days the parking fine as you have pressed one digit wrong on the car reg , Can you spot when I can start work yet ? So demoralising and not good for team work especially if someone has grabbed the desk when you get back and has used the last bit of milk. You get home and realise you have left one of your leads behind .

    • Michelle February 6, 2019 at 8:13 am #

      Absolutely spot on it is ridiculous especially car parking. I have to trek across a park where by the way several social workers have been threatened and cars vandalised. Welcome to the new changes that make your job 10 times worse!!!

  6. Joy January 31, 2019 at 9:46 pm #

    Absolute nightmare. So sad that good people who set out to help change people’s lives for the better are treated like this. A sign of the times.

    • Jacqui February 1, 2019 at 8:36 am #

      Appalling and an old chestnut that has never been dealt with. As a disabled agency worker I can’t even carry all the necessary equipment,and the mixed messages to be available AND work from home from managers is terribly stressful. I worry about confidentiality in an open office where it is very obvious others listen in, and my own credibility when working from home which quite frankly, can be viewed as a skive! After many years as a very experienced sw I am contemplating removing myself from the register.

  7. Lisa January 31, 2019 at 10:46 pm #

    No sense of belonging, difficult to feel part of a team. Nobody notices if your there or not, on holiday, off sick?!! . Feel completely detached and isolated. Does absolutely nothing to promote working together. I like it how we have to call it ‘remote’ working when we know that means our homes as there are no alternative places to stop and dock in. No allowance given for using our personal WiFi/electric and no equipment provision for working at home not good for wellbeing.

  8. Louise Purser January 31, 2019 at 10:57 pm #

    I work for a local authority that offers excellent facilities for car parking near to the offices which makes life so much easier to do the day job, providing staff with Mac books, iPads and iPhones enables us to work flexibly in the offices and at home if we choose to. My experience as an nqsw assessor who regularly hot desks across the sw teams provides me with the opportunity to touch base with social workers and be available to provide advice on learning opportunities and answer queries.
    I value the opportunities to network with social workers and also recognise that sws need a base to come back to after complex situations to debrief and reflect on what decisions they need to make. Working in good quality and clean offices is so important to support sws to feel valued as professionals.

  9. Kat February 1, 2019 at 7:00 am #

    My heart sinks to see this survey, as all it tells us is that social workers are still not being treated with the respect they require. Social workers have been telling the ‘powers that be’ for years about the detrimental impact of hot desking and car park issues. Yet, our views are still not being heard or respected, hence another survey. Social workers should not have to worry about these practical issues, our role is to the children, adults and communities who need us more than ever.

  10. jules February 1, 2019 at 3:43 pm #

    Got a ticket at work yesterday despite having paid on line. How is it that this can happen to front line staff in the council car park. Making a profit from workers?

  11. Jenny February 1, 2019 at 7:28 pm #

    I work in a city centre with no allocated parking for social workers. Parking is an absolute nightmare. If you arrive after 10am due to being on a visit you either can’t find a space or can only find a space for a 4 hour limit. It is still at least a 10 minute walk to the office with a huge trolly bag full of files and my laptop.

    The worst part is that social last workers have mugged and carjacked whilst going home in the evening as we are forced to park in unlit and dangerous areas just to get a space. Management have done nothing to address this but to say ‘walk back to cars in pairs’ which is impractical as people leave a different times and park at different places.

    As a result, I try to work from home as much as possible. Therefore, not dealing is not an issue for me as I am hardly ever in the office.

    • Jenny February 1, 2019 at 7:29 pm #

      That should say ‘hot desking’ not ‘not dealing’-spell check!

  12. Sara February 1, 2019 at 8:16 pm #

    I have been a qualified social worker since 1986 and how I often long for the “good old days” Offices in the community which were accessible to service users, dedicated admin staff, car parking,That wee desk of yours with your pictures and postcards on the wall, your coffee mug just sitting there. The support of your team to share moans, groans and good practice.

  13. Annonymous February 2, 2019 at 6:57 am #

    Car parking is a problem with any job. As the minimum wage retail worker how much they have to pay to park and how far they have to walk once get have.

    Hot desking is the biggest problem for social workers. It says moral and increases tension amongst peers. Working from home is not a solution either. in fact, it adds to the problem. If the most experienced workers are at home, then where does the less experienced workers support network that helps them with ethical dilemmas. No one want to be standing at the managers door with every dilemma. Plus, asteams sizes grow, management don’t have time to be there for everyone all the time, and supervision is becoming more and more focus s on case direction rather than reflective practice.

    Bring back the good old days of team offices, with fixed desks. Things were much better then.

  14. janet E February 2, 2019 at 5:26 pm #

    Although most of the teams in my LA opted for hot desking, my team refused to consider. We were in a separate building so this did not cause a problem. The odd times we had to visit the other teams offices, it was rare to be able to access a desk etc. Fortunately my LA provided all SWs with free parking permits to use in the street and on council estates. The road outside our office was permit only but with our permit it was reasonably easy to park.

  15. Patsy Gayle February 3, 2019 at 10:53 am #

    What is the point of ANOTHER survey..what is community care going to do about the issue? Briefly, all I can say in my experience is that my stress level start to rise the minute I leave home, wondering where I’m going to park and where I’m going to sit when I get to work. As far as I’m concerned there is no care, respect or due diligence given to SW’s as long as the job gets done!!

  16. John McGowan General Secretary February 4, 2019 at 10:21 am #

    The issue is far wider than car parking and hotdesking affects jobs.

    The largest ever study into UK Social Work ‘Working Conditions’ and research undertaken by British Association of Social Workers (BASW) the Social Workers Union (SWU) and Bath Spa University (August 2018) has found that social workers are strongly engaged in their work and want the very best outcomes for service users, but they are hampered by poor working conditions and a lack of resources and this included issues like parking and hot desking. The research highlighted that compared to the UK average, SW working conditions were worse than 90%-95% of other employees in both public and private sector occupations with nearly half of all social workers are also dissatisfied in their jobs. Two thirds of social workers in the UK have attended work while ill at least twice in the last year. Concerning that Social workers worked an average of 64 days per year more than they are contracted to (an average of 11 hours per week). 60% of social workers looking to leave their current job within the next 15 months compared to 52% last year. The main stressors appear to be high case and administrative loads, and lack of resources for service users with Children and Families Social Workers slightly more stressed than other areas of social work.

    The new ‘working conditions research 2018 is indeed further and continued evidence that the social work sector in the UK is in crisis, it was clearly evident throughout the report that those who work in the sector are incredibly committed to their work, to maintaining the highest of standards for service users, and for the most part, they want to find a way to remain working in social work. However positive working environments are necessary for social workers’ psychological and physical welfare and to keep social workers in posts. The UK Government needs to listen to this. once you identify the issues resulting in low workplace morale, addressing the working conditions of social workers is necessary to keep morale from further declining. Therefore, the Social Workers Union and British Association of Social Workers created the Respect for Social Work Campaign and also active with campaigning with Local Authorities and UK Social Work Employers to make them aware of the problem with stress and getting the working conditions right.

    The ‘working conditions’ campaign and pressure group has once more highlighted what the reality of being a social worker is in today’s austerity Britain. It is a great concern therefore that the majority of social workers are considering leaving the profession due to having to work an extra 10 hours a week unpaid to meet their workload and protect vulnerable people. Social work intervention in a vulnerable person’s life can greatly improve the quality of life and opportunities for that person and the people that support them, who otherwise may need increased intervention from a range of agencies that costs more to the taxpayer but also reduces the quality of life for the person.”

    Representatives from Social Workers Union and British Association of Social Workers have been successful in raising the issue in the UK House of Lords and in the House of Commons. We have encouraged social workers and assisted them to write to MPs, Ministers for Education, Health etc that social work is properly funded and resourced to retain the workforce and protect vulnerable children and adults. We have requested a further parliament debate and will continue to make our view known and stay active. This work is ongoing and will be the second stage of the campaign in reaching out to employers and assisting them with methods to change and creating further awareness of the problems.

    Ravalier JM. Psycho-Social Working Conditions and Stress in UK Social Workers. Br J Soc Work [Internet]. 2018; Available from: https://academic.oup.com/bjsw/advancearticle-abstract/doi/10.1093/bjsw/bcy023/4988194 6.
    Ravalier JM. The influence of work engagement in Social Workers in England. Occup Med (Lond). 2018; 68(6): 399-40

    John McGowan
    General Secretary
    Social Workers Union

  17. Phil Sanderson February 5, 2019 at 9:07 pm #

    My authority is about to start this nonsense of hot desking. It has nothing to do with making the service better it is about cramming people into fewer buildings and selling off sites to try and balance the budget. They want you to work at home in the hope that you will continue to paper over the cracks 24/7. Working at home in isolation is not a good idea and means you cannot get support and most importantly you can never turn off from work. The long term damage to your mental health will be the result of this idiocy on the part of local government managers who incidentally will never hot desk in their lives!!

    Our authority forced through parking charges for city centre staff last year having robbed us of car allowance a few years ago such is there commitment to their front line staff.

  18. Sarah February 5, 2019 at 9:45 pm #

    We hot desk at our intake team it’s great. Get to bounce cases of different members of the team. We dedicate a day together. No parking on site but its nice to get some exercise. We need to move with the times and social work is not about desk work lets give ourselves freedom to do our work where ever we need to 🙂

    • Annonymous February 7, 2019 at 4:46 am #

      Where do you get those rose tinted glasses from, I must need a new pair.

      • Andi February 8, 2019 at 2:43 pm #

        She’ll have been in the job five minutes and won’t stick it for long.

    • jules February 8, 2019 at 11:35 am #

      Are you a policy maker trying to paint hot desking and poor working conditions leading to isolation and disintegrating teams as positive? Listen to the majority of replies on this forum which point to low moral, lack of respect and appreciation for the difficult job we do and the prospect of 60%+ of social workers thinking of moving to other types of employment.

  19. Hard done to February 7, 2019 at 4:51 am #

    We have this thing called agile working. It’s rubbish and doesn’t work. I walk around our massive council office and see everyone other than the social work teams sitting at their ‘usual desk’. Time to stop standing for being treated as differently. It doesn’t work for them and it doesn’t work for us. I’m yet to see any research that say it is good for the workforce and not just good for the budget.

  20. Sarah Thomas February 7, 2019 at 9:03 am #

    I must be a rare breed. I love working from home. It saves on travel time, so I can get up later. I am in warm, comfortable surroundings and feel I have a much better work/ life balance. I do not know how I came into the office five days a week for all those years. No wonder I was knackered. I envy the younger starters as they can look forward to this luxury that I did not have for two decades. In my opinion the odd day of having to come into the office with all the hassle of hot desking and parking plus the higher utility bills for working at home is an agreeable trade off for the luxury of mostly working at home. It is now my dream job!

    • Anastasia February 9, 2019 at 7:02 pm #

      I totally hear you, it is a luxury and I’m so much more productive when at home. But sometimes you just need someone to reflect with and that isn’t available at home. On the flip side, when people are working at home and someone is in the office, the sense of team unity is nonexistent and it can be lonely.

  21. Anastasia February 9, 2019 at 7:01 pm #

    I’m a few months into my first social work job as an ASYE and the hot desking and lack of parking space is an absolute nightmare. I make myself go into the office extra early so I can get a desk and have time to clean it with anti-bacterial wipes before going out for visits/meetings. I’m no clean freak but the ‘tidy desk’ policy is total rubbish, they’re always a mess with empty packets of food, leftover papers/sticky notes, sticky rings from where coffee cups have been and crumbs leftover from yesterday’s lunch. It’s disgusting. So in I go with my wipes, connect my laptop to the monitor etc before I head out on visits. I’ve started putting a sticky note on the desk saying ‘please do not move, be back in x minutes’. Not long ago I was moved 3 times! And the hard faced social worker sitting in my spot will say oh sorry but won’t bother budging. It’s so unbelievably frustrating. I’m on a team of 8, we have 6 desks but realistically only 4 as 2 are always taken by another team. So we’ll end up squished up elbow to elbow as we try to set up in the middle of two other workers.

    Going out for visits and meetings and I always experience that sinking feeling of knowing I’m going to loose my parking space and likely not get one again. This is assuming I can get out of the car park because some foolz will decide to park in random spaces throughout the carpark that are meant to be entrance/exit ways, not parking bays.

    As a new social worker, I value the input and knowledge of my team. But more often than not, there will be maybe 1-2 members of staff around and the rest will be working from home. Sometimes I just need to reflect and bounce ideas off my colleagues but there isn’t anyone around to talk to.

    I really hope something changes soon because the working conditions are truly awful.

  22. Marie February 18, 2019 at 11:45 am #

    Both the car parking and hot desking situations are a nightmare for social workers.

    I agree with all the comments above that highlight no parking spaces, high cost of parking when you do find a space, long trudges to and from the car/office in all weathers with heavy bags, laptops, files. frequent parking fines because SW are dealing with crisis and overrun their time in the car park.

    Hot desking equals not enough desks and when you do get on they are filthy dirty. I spend half my time clearing and cleaning a desk each time I sit down to work. Later that day or the next workers will gravitate to my clean desk so I will have to clear/clean another. The desks do not have adequate working electrical sockets, keyboards. mouse or monitors. I was advised by the council health/safety officer during a workstation assessment (years ago) that no one should be working without a monitor/keyboard/mouse. When I pointed out that I cannot work on the tiny tablet screen I was told by a senior manager that I would get used to it. There are a high number of staff crammed into one office. I agree with the person above who stated that out of several teams in one office only the social workers seem to be expected to hot desk.

    The social worker role is utterly stressful however social workers accept this. I doubt any person training in SW believed that working with people in difficult circumstances/crisis would be easy however it shouldn’t have to be this hard. Basics like a decent workspace and reasonable cost available parking would go some way to reducing stress in the role.

    I qualified as a social worker in 2003. Do I feel valued by my LA employer? The answer is no. Am I considering leaving the profession? The answer is yes.