loading gif icon


16 Ways to Stop Social Work Burnout Among Children’s Service Providers

Social work burnout and turnover rates among social workers, including children’s service providers, greatly varies across the United States. Social workers and services providers must deal with endless challenges, which range from prioritization of timeliness over quality to a lack of a supportive team environment. In addition, your organization’s reputation and ability to provide services to children, youth and families depends on having a qualified, experienced workforce. Fortunately, you can reduce the incidence of burnout and turnover by making your organization more involved and encouraging employees to work against burnout as well.

5 tips for improving your organization’s turnover rates

Team of social workers avoiding burnout by doing a team activity

Your organization can help to mitigate social work burnout by taking a few actions, as explained by Hunter College. Consider how each of these tips can create a more productive and enjoyable environment for your team members.

1. Make quality your top priority

Delivering positive outcomes is a fundamental career aspiration among children’s service providers, but it is not always feasible. Meanwhile, the stream of those in need has resulted in a shift of service goals. In other words, more organizations focus on speed of delivery, not quality.

Consequently, the outcomes of individual cases suffer. Give your team members enough time to complete their duties fully. If a case requires additional time to review or investigate, grant it.

2. Encourage healthy behaviors among staff

Healthy behaviors encourage staff members to persevere and helps them cope with stressful situations. As an employer, you can create a health-conscious environment. For example, partner with local health clubs or heart-healthy restaurants to offer discounted rates or to host community awareness events that encourage a healthy, productive lifestyle.

Other ways of increasing healthy behaviors include hosting a weekly, health-food potluck or providing training on the benefits of well-balanced nutrition. Each scenario gives employees an opportunity to interact with peers and gain insights from the experiences of other employees.

Ultimately, social interaction in a healthy manner is essential to reducing burnout in social work organizations and employees that spend most working time in the field.

3. Request and apply staff feedback

Your team members have ideas for improving the work environment and how cases are managed. Create a way for your team to provide feedback on their positions and duties. But, you need to also make sure that you follow up with action. If a suggestion cannot be implemented, explain why, and speak with the person suggesting it personally as to why it will not work.

4. Create a team environment and spread success stories

Your organization needs to foster a team environment and encourage the spread of success stories. In human services, the negative stories often outweigh and outpace the spread of good stories. Encourage team members to discuss their successes with co-workers.

Meanwhile, you can help create a team environment by encouraging collaboration and a sense of unilateral purpose. In other words, get involved with your team members in handling caseloads and providing support during difficult times.

5. Identify secondary traumatic stress disorder early

Secondary traumatic stress disorder (STSD) results from repeated exposure to negative, traumatic events while working. In children, youth, and family social work, in-home visits can result in extreme stress and lead to burnout. For example, parents or children may become violent when faced with an in-home visit or removal from the home. Children may bite, kick or scratch, causing physical, and possibly psychological, injury to workers.

Unfortunately, the in-the-field nature of social work means they may not be able to express their feelings following these encounters. So, you need to actively work to educate staff on the risk of mental anguish, depression, and STSD. Send out awareness bulletins or create support groups for STSD in your organization.

11 tips to reduce social work burnout

Female social worker avoiding burnout by working with a young client

Social work organizations and employees can also take the initiative in reducing burnout. By following these tips, you can help prevent burnout among your staff. This will ultimately create a healthier organization that can provide better services to its clients.

1. Negotiate your responsibilities

Your staff members should have the authority to negotiate responsibilities, which may include schedule management. In your role as an upper-level management leader, do not overwhelm staff members, and be ready to accept that some workers cannot handle additional workloads.

2. Be selective on which cases you accept

Some cases are more difficult than others, but even social workers develop specific areas of expertise. For example, some social workers may work well with children who are victims of violence, and others may be best-suited for managing the well-being of children with intellectual or developmental disability. Thus, social workers should identify their preferred areas and focus on accepting cases within such areas of focus.

3. Disconnect and unplug from the world at night

This is hard. Social workers have a personal stake in being available for anything, but it is important to remember that other people can answer the call as well. Service providers that are not on call should unplug from the world at night. In other words, do not check emails or otherwise “work” unless — and only — if it is an emergency.

4. Maintain self-care

People cannot care for others if they do not first care for themselves. Your employees need to care for themselves, including maintaining mental and physical health check-ups and being properly groomed. Although you cannot request your staff member’s health information, you can encourage self-care by hosting on-site health clinics and wellness events.

5. Have fun as needed

The life of children’s service providers should be more than courtrooms and in-home visits; it should include recreational activities. So, your organization can partner with local movie rental vendors to promote “movie night” among your staff.

6. Change up your routine

Providing services can get monotonous, so encourage your team members to switch it up appropriately. For example, change working schedules to reflect the needs of individual staff members.

7. Challenge yourself

Challenges are great ways to test readiness for advancement. Give your staff members challenges and use their progress as a guide for advancement.

8. Get involved in social events

Your employees need social interaction, so host social events for them. The key is making the events take place at third-party locations.

9. Take time to rest

Overtime rules may change with the new administration, but in the interim, make sure your team members have adequate time for self-care, too.

10. Make friends in the office

It is easy to get lonely at work, but friends can make the days pass much more quickly and smoothly. Encourage appropriate friendships among staff members.

11. Don’t take setbacks in cases personally

There will be times when disciplinary action is needed, or case outcomes may incur serious setbacks. Social workers must avoid taking these events personally. Ultimately, if you cannot change something, you need not worry about it.

Final thoughts on social work burnout

Children, youth and family service providers are not resigned to facing unchecked turnover rates and increasing burnout hopelessly. You can improve employee satisfaction and reduce turnover by implementing these tips and practices in your organization. In fact, print out the “11 Tips for Social Workers” section and distribute copies to your team. An ounce of prevention and action today can help stop the worsening of turnover rates in the future.

Solutions for Children, Youth, and Family Providers

Keeping families safe and healthy is rewarding and challenging work. Children’s services providers face difficult situations and are exposed to trauma on a daily basis. Children’s services has a higher burnout and turnover rate than other industries, including healthcare. Taking care of our future requires taking care of those who provide services. Learn how Relias can help.

Learn More →

Connect with Us

to find out more about our training and resources

Request Demo