Social work exists on a different trajectory than all other professions or occupations. Nothing compares to utilizing your compassion and drive to ease others’ suffering. And social workers often do this arduous task while putting their lives at risk. Indeed, anyone employed in this work must have an inner calling for it, but that doesn’t necessarily negate the job’s stressors and challenges.
One of the most significant burdens weighing down social workers is the emotional fatigue that comes with seeing the extremes of injustice and abuse. Plus, working with society’s most marginalized and vulnerable individuals comes bearing heavy stress. Social workers aren’t entirely in control of their client’s situations, so there’s also particular helplessness that weighs big when they can’t rescue someone or solve a case.
Dealing with Vulnerable People
As a social worker, you’re exposed to a diverse group of clients daily, such as those belonging to different ages, genders, races, and religions. And some of these people will likely be struggling with physical or mental disabilities.
Sometimes, to help these vulnerable individuals, you may have to confront their families and teachers too. A study exploring first-hand accounts of social worker’s daily challenges revealed some astounding realities. One social worker described a case where they had to advise the jury about ending a child’s contact with their mother. They even had to deliver the verdict with both of them in the same room. It is just one real-life example of the many social worker ethical dilemmas they go through in their everyday practice.
Unconventional Work Schedule
One downside of this profession is that it doesn’t comply with the conventional working days or hours. Usually, a social worker’s job reaches far beyond these time limitations. And consequently, it can be challenging to juggle both personal and work life simultaneously. Many organizations turn away from the five-day 9-5 work schedule even outside the social worker’s domain. Why? Our society is transforming, and so are our modes of working.
However, a flexible routine offers more opportunities to work on other aspects of your life. For instance, social workers have more time for relaxing activities like yoga or reading. Plus, this free time can help you value the fruits of working in an unpredictable yet rewarding occupation.
What’s more, differing levels of social work also offer different advantages. For instance, social workers dealing with the policies and laws affecting our healthcare have more significant career advancement opportunities at the macro level. Social workers may not have the traditional work hours or career progression relative to other fields. However, they’re capable of choosing the direction and adjust it according to their personal needs.
Higher Burnout Rates
Social welfare has one of the highest, almost alarming, burnout rates among all other professions. And it’s impossible to live the hectic life of a social worker and not get burnt out. Although there’s no surefire way to change occupation’s requirements and characteristics, some strategies might help. Experts recommend indulging in self-care once in a while, creating work-life boundaries, and focusing on eating and sleeping properly.
Since a social worker’s job usually occurs in emotionally charged situations, it’s easy to develop a case of compassion fatigue. It’s hard to remain detached from disturbing situations when one deals with them so frequently. Compassion fatigue can include symptoms like regular headaches, emotional/physical exhaustion, and depersonalization.
Emotional resilience can be a helpful tool here. It can allow you to navigate a crisis and come back to a pre-crisis state. Rather than being restricted by your emotional capacity, you can adopt specific approaches that enhance your resilience. Besides, maintaining a work-life balance and practising mindfulness can help alleviate some occupational pressures and help you be there for your family too.
Every day, worldwide institutions launch multiple new social welfare programs. And yet, the demand for social workers exceeds their supply. As a result, those currently employed in the profession get cramped with increasing workloads. Increasingly heavy workloads are another social work-related nuisance. Additionally, social workers have to prepare mounds of paperwork and be on top of disclosure requirements, which certainly doesn’t help the existing workload.
Lower Pay scales
Unfortunately, the social welfare’s pay scale doesn’t justify its high academic and work requirements, such as a minimum of bachelor’s or master’s degree. Combined with the incredibly high injury rate, it’s clear why social workers report greater levels of burnout. According to the BLS, the typical salary of a social worker is $49,470. However, the average pay for a bachelor’s graduate is approximately $60,996. In contrast, a master’s degree holder can receive up to $72,852 in annual salaries.
People employed in social welfare possess an undying desire to impact their respective communities and the world positively. Mostly, they succeed in their passion. However, there are several job-related challenges that social workers must face head-on while changing the world for the better.