Social work appears to be linked with the word stress. Case loads, bad press, managing conflicting needs. But one of the most common causes for stress in my team is going on annual leave. It is not uncommon to hear the phrase “is it ever worth taking leave?” You panic beforehand about getting things done, you panic while you are away wondering what is happening with your families and then when you get back. You spend most of your time replying to emails and returning phone calls. Those memories from your time off quickly fading, only to feel that you have never been away.
Earlier this year I booked a three week holiday. I got the okay from my manager and we discussed a plan to ensure that my cases were managed when I was away. When the holiday was booked I put it to the back of my mind, I had months to ensure that I was ready, no point worrying about it now.
All of a sudden it is September and I am going away next week. Am I stressed or worried? Nope, just very excited about having time off and exploring a new country. So what is different? Why am I not stressed. I’m going to miss core groups, CP visits and all other types of meetings. The answer is, my time off has been planned well.
Taking a long period of time off can be stressful, however the management at Wiltshire Council have made it possible for me to take 3 weeks off and not feel too worried about it. My cases are going to be co allocated while I am away, someone will be responsible for taking calls and dealing with any emergencies and my team is so supportive I know that they will not want me to come back and be stressed out.
Myself and my colleagues give so much of ourselves to this job that sometimes we forget that we are entitled to a break, we are entitled to leave the job at work and have a home life. If we can manage this work life balance and remember that we work in a team and not in isolation, then taking time off need not be stressful.
Here are my top 5 tips for feeling relaxed about annual leave
- Plan. Make sure you know who will be doing what while you are away.
- Case summaries. Make sure you write a brief summary about each case. That way your colleagues have an insight into the case and the work that you have been undertaking
- Keep admin up to date. That way you won’t have the last minute manic typing until midnight to ensure your visits and case recordings are up to date
- Talk to you manager. Get their advice and support
- Leave your laptop at work. Make sure that all work related items are left at the office when you have time off. You need to relax and not worry about work. You will be a much more effective social worker if you have a proper break.