Standard 4 - Wellbeing

This standard is about promoting a positive culture for employee wellbeing and supporting social workers to have the practical tools, resources and the organisational environment they need to practice effectively and safely.

Someone giving a helping hand to another

Employers should create and encourage a culture of wellbeing and self-care that is available for all social workers, including preventative strategies, information about a range of wellbeing tools and work-based wellbeing activities available to them. Induction, team meetings and organisational communication sources should be used, not just to offer support when difficulty arises, but also to signpost what is available to support social workers to thrive.

Employers should be committed to breaking down mental health stigma in the workplace and managers should use wellness action plans or alike that offer the possibility of discussion about what helps people keep well, what supports their wellbeing and resilience at work and clearly signpost where to get help and support.

Employers need to be consciously aware of the emotional demands inherent in social work and how they can affect wellbeing. Employers need to understand the ways in which work-related stress can impact on employees’ emotional resilience when working within complex systems and with people, children, families and carers at times of crisis.

Reflective supervision can enable staff to process the complex emotional demands that they may experience and can be used to understand which cases or circumstances may be impacting on the social workers wellbeing. Supervision should be utilised to encourage open conversations with consideration of action, appropriate adjustments and an offer of support.

Employers need to champion wellbeing in the workplace and develop a culture where open discussion about the emotional demands of the work is normalised and peer to peer support activities are facilitated. Employers should develop policies that support those with mental health problems and support them to come forward and offer appropriate support. Initiatives such as the introduction of wellbeing champions and peer support groups in the workplace have been used in other sectors to great effect.


Strategic accountability

All employers should:

  1. foster a culture of openness and inclusion in the organisation that empowers social workers to make appropriate professional judgements within a supportive environment 
  2. be responsive to workforce needs and be proactive and creative by working with social workers and others in their organisation to develop a wellbeing framework that supports social workers to thrive at work
  3. enable social workers and managers to raise concerns about inadequate resources, operational difficulties, workload issues or their own skills and capacity for direct work with children, adults and family without fear of recrimination
  4. enable social workers to engage with their professional association, regulator and trade union (if a member)
  5. put in place and support flexible working arrangements
  6. promote learning and development opportunities including, for example, secondments with relevant partner organisations.

Work environment

All employers should:

  1. make quality time and a confidential, private space available for formal supervision, informal confidential professional discussions between colleagues, break-out sessions and team meetings (this includes how to operate telephone and video-conferencing)
  2. have a suitable space for confidential interviews with adequate safety measures to protect practitioners
  3. have in place caring and effective systems for reporting and responding to concerns raised by social workers and managers so that risks are assessed, and preventative and protective measures are taken to ensure the social worker is keeping safe and well.

Safety

Employers should provide a safe and effective working environment for social workers where their safety and welfare needs are met.

They should:

  1. have robust violence, aggression and lone worker policies and guidance to ensure that social workers can do their jobs safely. Employers and managers along with social workers should ensure that the risks of violence, harassment and bullying are assessed, minimised and prevented. Where such instances do occur, there should be clear procedures in place to address, monitor, resolve and review the situation so that social workers are aware of how to raise and report concerns  
  2. ensure awareness of violence aggression and lone working so that social workers know the local policy and steps needed so that employers can protect employees from exposure to foreseeable violence and aggression at work and other risks arising from lone working
  3. ensure that support services, such as occupational health, employee assistance programmes and human resources are available and that social workers who fall victim to violence and aggression at work are actively signposted to these services recognising that the extent of that support will depend upon the particular circumstances of the case.

Tools and support to do the job

All employers should:

  1. provide social workers with appropriate practical tools to do their job including effective case recording systems, business support, access to the internet and information and communication technologies, and ensure that social workers are trained to use them effectively
  2. work with social workers to identify ways in which they can deliver better support to people using digital services, both through training and through the adoption of digital technologies by employers
  3. ensure social workers have safe means of transport for visiting service users and for field work and are aware of safe social media policies
  4. provide administrative support to social workers and help to maximise the time social workers can spend working directly with the children, adults and families who use services
  5. provide social workers with access to fellow professionals including legal advisors, translators and interpreters.

Useful resources

LGA Wellbeing guide for managers

The Bath Spa, BASW, SWU working conditions and wellbeing toolkit

One You. Resources tips, tools, support and encouragement to help improve your health.

University of Bedfordshire Organisational diagnostic wellbeing and workbook and action plan

Wellness Action Plans by MIND

Time to Change.  Breaking down mental health stigma in the workplace. Pledge action Plan

Working alone – UNISON health and safety guide

Suicide Awareness

BASW - The Code of Ethics for Social Work

International Federation of Social workers Ethical Principles (IFSW 2004)

BASW Human Rights Policy

HSE tools for stress

BASW: UK Supervision Policy

It’s not part of the job UNISON Health and Safety Guide on Tackling Violence at Work

Bargaining on Hot Desking Policies – UNISON guide

Whistleblowing policy

Practice Educator Professional Standards Refresh