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Celebrating Social Work Month


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Celebrating Social Work Month: Burnout-Busting Ideas & Suggestions Social Workers Celebrating


National Professional Social Work Month is the perfect time to incorporate a few burnout-busting techniques into your workplace. Bu how do you begin?


First, gather some information. If you're the boss, talk to your staff or conduct a brief anonymous survey. Get some good, solid feedback about your staff: How are they feeling? How are they coping?


Use that feedback to determine specific aspects of burnout to address in your Social Work Month celebration. Look for the three hallmark indications of burnout: Exhaustion, Ineffectiveness, and Cynicism.


If you're not in a supervisory position, you can still solicit feedback from your colleagues and gauge which of the above-mentioned three dimensions of burnout are being felt in the organization.

TIP  Remember that stress and play are physically incompatible. Including games, laughter, and lots of fun in your celebration provides you and your colleagues with the very best Social Work Month gift of all ... stress relief!






  Are The Staff Feeling Exhausted?

If the staff are literally working themselves to death, try to develop a way to give them a break from their workload, however temporary that respite may be. Consider planning an event away from the workplace. Rather than a potluck in the break room, consider an extended lunch for several hours off site at a nice restaurant. Explore a half-day or all-day retreat at a park lodge or other relaxing site away from the hustle and bustle of the work environment. Near the end of your gathering, ask the staff how they feel after their break. If it seems to have been refreshing, look for ways to continue giving staff brief respites from heavy workloads at other times during the year.

TIP  You need to plan carefully or it runs the risk of backfiring! If all the staff are away from the agency for a day, they may become completely demoralized by too many neglected tasks when they return to work the next day. Consider planning two or three events, with only half or a third of the staff attending each event. This allows you to rotate staff coverage at the agency with staff respite. Then the staff at the event can actually relax and have a great time because they know their work duties are being handled.


  Are The Staff Feeling Ineffective?

Nothing makes me fry more quickly than feeling unproductive! If your workers are sharing this sentiment, then dig deeper and discover specific aspects of the job which lend themselves to feelings of uselessness, unproductiveness, or ineffectiveness. Use Social Work Month events as a first step in addressing burnout in the organization all year long!

For example, if you're having a departmental potluck, ask about forming committees to streamline paperwork, reduce redundant tasks, and address other issues which the staff believe diminish their effectiveness. Also explore staff feelings. Do they feel like they contribute to the overall mission of the agency? If not, what would they change in order to feel that their contribution is worthwhile?


If you're the boss, give your staff a truly significant gift this year: the gift of addressing their burnout! Click here for a variety of Burnout Busting Resources which can help you point the department in a healthier direction!



  Are The Staff Feeling Cynical?

Are the staff feeling conflict between personal or professional ethics and the demands of the job? Put some thought into ways to help them reconnect with the values that led them into the social work profession in the first place.

Consider recognizing the individual contributions of every single person on the staff. Point out in a public and sincerely appreciative way the positive differences your staff have made to the organization as a whole and to individual clients. For example, consider getting some blank recognition certificates at your local office supply store. Then make up a thoughtful yet sincere “award” to present individually to each staff member at your gathering. Feel free to use humor in the process as long as it isn't mean spirited!

Some examples might include recognizing an emergency mental health worker for intervening in a total of 179 suicidal crises in the past 3 months. Just think, 179 lives affected in a short period of time. That's something! So recognize it, reward it, and celebrate it! You can be creative in recognizing your road warriors who do home visits, the on-call sleepwalkers who come in at 3 AM for crises, and a whole range of unique services and staff if you take a little time and get creative. Just be sure to tie the social worker's contribution back to the agency's mission and point out how that worker made the world a little better place.



  Ideas For Social Work Managers

  • Give your staff a casual dress day.

  • Surprise your staff with an extra hour at lunch. If necessary, fill in for them to give them an extra long break. Just be sure that everyone gets the break ... no playing favorites!

  • If there are non social work staff at your agency who don't understand what your department does, consider putting up a display in a prominent area of the agency. Put up poster board with staff pictures and captions of their accomplishments. For example, under a photo of Mary Smith, print a list of her accomplishments others may not know about, such as new programs developed, special educational credentials, accomplishments, etc. Make it a sort of Wall of Fame for others to browse. This provides public recognition to your staff, as well as education about the social work role to other disciplines.

  • At your next staff meeting, find a way to publicly and personally recognize each and every staff member. This can be especially meaningful it you do it in writing. Your local office supply store carries blank certificates of recognition you can adapt for the purpose. If you can, hand out little perks such as restaurant certificates or movie tickets with the certificate.

  • Start a burnout busting committee to plan fun, stress-relieving activities all year long, not just during Social Work Month.

  • Visit Office Playground and put together a kit of toys for the office or meeting room. Remember, play and stress are physiologically incompatible!

  • Start a Fun Patrol. Grab a button or magnet from the Fried Social Worker Store. Pass it around from staff person to staff person. The person who is "it" has to plan something fun for staff.

  • Sponsor a Stress Relief Day (SRD) during National Professional Social Work Month. During SRD, plan unusual activities to make the staff laugh. For example, deliver phone messages with a frisbee or a nerf ball. Hand out kazoos at meetings and insist that staff blow a salute on his/her kazoo before being allowed to speak at the meeting. Permit casual dress. Disallow walking from office to office, insist on dancing in the halls. Use your imagination and plan a fun SRD that will promote some much-needed stress relief while still allowing staff to meet the agency's needs.


  Not The Boss and Wondering What You Can Do?

Plenty! If you're short on time and low on funds, then keep it simple.

  • Organize a staff potluck or a departmental meeting at a local restaurant. Then roast your boss or the organization. Just keep it limited to clean fun with nothing mean spirited. And remember, some of those issues you joke about are the very issues that fuel your burnout. After having a good laugh, why not resolve to find ways to address them and improve the workplace?

  • Form a Recognition Committee with the responsibility of finding a way to uniquely recognize a contribution of each department member. Be creative. Consider going to the office supply store for blank recognition certificates and presenting a humorous certificate to each staff member. Award staff for most times getting lost trying to find a home visit, most times locked out of the agency, etc. As long as nothing is ill-intentioned, make your awards as funny as you like.

  • Become the Chocolate Fairy and perform anonymous acts of chocolate during Social Work Month. Delight your colleagues by secretly placing candy bars and other goodies on their desks. Don't forget to reward yourself for your good deeds by splurging on some chocolate too!

  • Start an office toy box of stress-busting toys. Encourage your colleagues to contribute toys. Suggest group play time before or after staff meetings.

  • Send a note of appreciation to everyone in the department for their support and assistance. Don't forget to include the boss.

  • Bring cake, cookies, or donuts into the office for everyone to enjoy.

  • Put a copy of Minding Therapy in the office where eveyone can enjoy the humor in this novel.




Back to Social Work Month Page



  Advice From Gandhi

Wasn't it Gandhi who suggested that we become the change we wish to see around us? If you don't have a National Professional Social Work Month celebration in your agency or your area ... take the initiative and plan something!


  Getting Out The Word

We now offer a large selection of invitations, greeting cards, and postcards for Social Workers which you can use for Social Work Month or any social work celebration throughout the year.



Social Work Greeting Cards





 Doggone Good Fun

Lots of you work with therapy or service dogs. Why not invite the puppy to the party to perk up everyone's spirits? And if you like, you can even dress him in special attire!


Social Work t-shirts for dogs




 If All Else Fails

If all else fails, put on one of our overworked & underpaid buttons, go to happy hour, and tell the bartender how unappreciated you feel at work. Maybe he'll be kind enough to comp you a few hot wings and munchies on the house.


Button is printed with "overworked & underpaid"














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