The number of staff is commensurate with the work at hand when the qualitative and quantitative goals of the work can be achieved within working hours.
Work has a physical, psychological and social dimension that need to be balanced to avoid an excessive workload.
In social services, an excessive workload often manifests itself as too much work in relation to the responsibilities and demands involved, and the amount of work being too large to complete within working hours.
Social welfare work is multifaceted and dependent on many factors outside the social worker themself. Work can be carried out in many different ways; there is no one single way to achieve a good result.
Talentia has defined two workload indicators:
1) Indicator of the distribution and use of working hours, shown by the amount of tasks in the calendar for a day, week or month: the 60/40 model
60 % direct client work: preparation, planning, decision-making, documentation, reporting, cooperation, or consultation for a certain client or client group
40 % development work, indirect client work: cooperation, networking, development, advocacy, planning, general reporting and communication, continuing education, or work counselling.
2) Indicator and recommendation for a maximum number of clients
The number of clients is affected by many different factors, including the intensity of work and the clients’ varying service needs, different change and rehabilitation goals, opportunities for consultation, and time limits imposed by legislation, i.e. the social guarantee.
In early childhood education, the staff/children ratio and employee structure are defined by legislation.
Talentia’s staff dimensioning recommendation
- Working-age clients: no more than 35–50 clients / social worker or social instructor
- Child welfare: No more than 30 families / social worker when the families have 1 or 2 children. If there are more children per family, the number of families must be reduced. No more than 15 families / family worker, if the families have 1 or 2 children. If there are more children per family, the number of families must be reduced.
A social worker should not be responsible for the affairs of more than 40 children.
What can I do?
Are you aware of the purpose and goal of your work? Are you aware of your working hours? Are you able to fulfill the demands of your job within the time available? Do you think your workload is appropriate (too much – not too much, not too little – too little work)? What would be better and why?
- Consult your calendar: how are your working hours allocated to different tasks?
- Discuss workloads with your colleagues: speak about them at workplace meetings.
- Talk to your supervisor about your workload in connection with the development discussion, if not before. Propose a survey or monitoring tool that can also be presented to management and decision-makers.
- Bring it up in work counselling.
- If your workload gets too heavy and starts to wear you out, talk about it to the shop steward and your occupational health care provider. They will support you also in a preemptive manner.