There’s no mystery as to why remote working is popular with employees: more flexibility, reduced travel time (and cost), increased productivity and a greater sense of control.
It doesn’t work for everyone, though, and a number of employers have rowed back their flexible working policies in order to get together to share knowledge and skills, develop relationships and offer mutual support.
What do social workers think?
A hugely experienced locum, Sam Roberts has a wide-ranging knowledge of children’s social care garnered in local authorities in the south east of England.
Previously, he says, it was enough to have a contract as and when he needed it. These days he’s choosing work based on the career progression opportunities it offers.
Sam has worked with his Paradigm consultant for several years. Understanding his motivation and career objectives means that we are perfectly placed to consider all suitable vacancies. Recently, we suggested a project role at a new local authority.
This would certainly take Sam out of his comfort zone. It meant travelling to a new location and extra responsibility, but his consultant thought he would be perfect.
Sam’s new role is home-based. He has caring responsibilities, and being able to manage meetings and home visits gives him the flexibility he needs.
Better still, Sam is 100% sure he has the support of his line manager:
“There’s a strong sense of flexibility and trust. As long as the work is completed, it doesn’t matter where or when it’s done. We all know that life happens, and to work in an environment that works for everyone.”
What about those new to social work?
Malu Akao has just finished a social work degree. “I’m so relieved to have completed my degree,” she says. “It was so challenging at times.” Malu had no alternative but to set up her work station in her bedroom. “I felt really unprofessional sometimes, and I was worried that would affect the way people see and relate to me.”
The enclosed space was not the only lack of privacy was not the only drawback: “I’d shut down at the end of the day, but it was hard to decompress and get some distance between my personal life and what had been going on during the day.”
Remote working means that Malu spent limited time with her more experienced colleagues. Her practice educator had already said that she was too busy to take a student on and the absence of ‘water cooler’ conversations meant that she didn’t have the opportunity to chat things through with other team members. “I was gutted when my tutor said, ‘I’m sorry, I just can’t give you the time you need,’” Malu remembers. “I probably saw her five or six times in the 100 day assignment.”
Social workers are unlikely to go back full-time
In spite of the mixed reception, it’s unlikely that social workers will return to their offices full time. Now the technology is in place, and the precedent has been set, Paradigm’s candidates expect an element of flexibility in the roles they’re considering. There will always be the need for face to face supervision and home visits, but there are lots of tasks that are actually better done at home.
Remote working has been liberating in so many ways. We’re confident that if it’s approached flexibly, it could be a really powerful element within a local authority’s recruitment and retention strategy.