Social workers report a good work–life balance

Although Lithuania’s social workers say they frequently have to deal with violent behaviour at work from clients and and their rates of pay are below average, they still report that they are relatively happy. A survey to assess their occupational well-being, carried out by the Lithuanian Social Research Centre in 2011, found that while many were expected to deal with a heavy day-to-day workload, most respondents generally felt that they enjoyed a good work-life balance.

About the survey

A survey to assess the occupational well-being of employees in Lithuania’s social work sector was carried out in 2011 by researchers from the Lithuanian Social Research Centre (LSTC). The results of the findings were published in 2103 in a report, Occupational well-being in the sector of social work services in Lithuania.

The survey was based on, among other things, a series of interviews with social workers about different aspects of their work. The respondents were employed at a variety of social institutions across 20 Lithuanian local authorities. A total of 789 Lithuanian social workers with varying levels of experience and seniority were interviewed. They were asked about workload, earnings, professional career opportunities, and the balance between their work and family life.

The workers were divided into three groups – social workers, assistant social workers, and the chief executive officers of social institutions or their deputies responsible for social work. Between three and eight workers from each institution were interviewed, depending on the number of employees at the organisation. Survey questionnaires were distributed via e-mail or handed out personally to the social workers.

Main findings

Workload

The survey found that more than half of the social workers questioned (52%) felt their workload was either heavy or very heavy. Figures showed 47% said their workload was about right, while only 1% said they had a low or very low workload.

An analysis by the type of institution revealed that most of the respondents who found their workloads to be heavy or very heavy were based in social service centres (59.7%), homes for the disabled (55.2%), and homes for the elderly (53.5%).

Workplace organisation

The survey asked the respondents to assess the organisation of their workplace by factors such as size, lighting, heating, ventilation and furniture. The majority (64%) of those interviewed said the quality of their workplace was good or very good, while slightly less than one in ten (9%) described their workplace as bad or very bad (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Assessment of workplace quality

Figure 1: Assessment of workplace quality

Source: Lithuanian Social Research Centre (2013), Occupational well-being in the sector of social work services in Lithuania.

Quality of workplace findings were analysed by type of social service institution, showing that the highest number of employees who found their workplace to be bad or very bad worked in residential-based care institutions (13.7%). The majority of those who said that their workplace quality was good or very good worked in institutions for children (78.4%).

Earnings

The survey showed social workers were far from satisfied with their wages. The majority (70%) of the respondents said their pay was low (50%) or very low (20%). Wages were assessed as ‘standard’ by 28% of the respondents and only 2% said their wages were high or very high.

Statistics Lithuania (LSD) data show that the average net monthly wage of social work employees, including those working in individual enterprises, was LTL 1,196 (€346 as at 25 November 2013) in Lithuania in 2011. This was around 33% less than the average monthly net wage in the country.

Violence at work

The survey asked how frequently social workers were exposed to different types of violence such as harassment, humiliation, swearing, pushing and verbal threats. Most said violence at work was a frequent occurrence for social workers. Around 90% had been exposed to some form of violence at work. The table shows that the most frequent types of violent behaviour were swearing (83.1%), harassment (74.4%), and verbal threats (57.1%). In rare cases, violence was reported not only from customers, but also from superiors and colleagues.

Table 1: Violence experienced by social workers (%)

Frequency of violence

From customers (N=699) From superiors (N=627) From colleagues (N=624)

Very rare/never

57.8

94.7

94.6

Once in 1–3 months

25.2

4

4.2

Once a week or more frequently

17

1.3

1.2

Total

100

100

100

Source: Lithuanian Social Research Centre (2013), Occupational well-being in the sector of social work services in Lithuania.

An analysis of violence by the type of social service institution showed that workers in residential homes were most likely to deal with violence at work, with between 80% and 90% of them reporting having had to face one or more of the specific types asked about in the survey.

Work–life balance

The survey data show that social workers feel they have quite favourable conditions for enjoying a good work–life balance. Just over half (56%) agreed or absolutely agreed with the statement that they had ‘favourable conditions for work/family life reconciliation’. Around one in ten (11%) of the respondents disagreed or absolutely disagreed with the statement (Figure 2).

Figure 2: ‘I have favourable conditions for work/family life reconciliation in my workplace’ (%)

Figure 2: ‘I have favourable conditions for work/family life reconciliation in my workplace’ (%)

Source: Lithuanian Social Research Centre (2013), Occupational well-being in the sector of social work services in Lithuania.

Professional career opportunities

The survey findings suggest that Lithuanian social workers are generally not optimistic about their career opportunities which were assessed to be ‘good’ or ‘very good’ by only 40% of respondents. More than one in ten said their prospects were bad or very bad, and 47% said they were neither bad nor good.

Job satisfaction

More than half (68%) of the respondents said they were satisfied (60%) or highly satisfied (8%) with their job. Only 3% expressed high job dissatisfaction. The highest degree of job satisfaction was found among social workers based in settings run by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) where 76.7% reported being satisfied or highly satisfied.

Commentary

There are relatively few surveys of employees’ working conditions in Lithuania. While it might be assumed that social workers enjoy poor working conditions compared to those in the retail trade, hotels and restaurants, given their relatively low wages, heavy workloads and the frequency of workplace violence, the findings of the survey show that the majority of social workers in Lithuania are happy with their jobs.

Reference

Lithuanian Social Research Centre (2013), Occupational well-being in the sector of social work services in Lithuania, LSTC, Vilnius.

Rasa Zabarauskaite, Institute of Labour and Social Research

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