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Stress in social services : mental wellbeing, constraints and job satisfaction

By M Coffey, L Dugdill and AL Tattersall


The public sector is facing an impending shortage of staff, because young people no longer want to work in it and nearly a third of its workforce is over 50 years of age. Staff working within the public sector report that stress is the biggest single factor affecting their decision to leave. This research note reports the findings of a recent study carried out in two social service departments in the north-west of England. The primary aim of the research was to explore work-related stress, using a ‘problem diagnosis tool’ to understand the stressors experienced by social services staff, and to inform the development of interventions aimed at reducing and/or eliminating them. This study used in-depth interviewing to develop a questionnaire incorporating a variety of measures to assess potential stressors and mental well-being. The questionnaire response rate was 33 per cent (n = 1234) and the results demonstrated statistically significant differences between staffing grades. Staff working with children and families reported the highest levels of absenteeism, poorest well-being, and highest level of organizational constraints. Job satisfaction was low compared with established norms for various occupational groups. This grounded research baseline is a crucial step to inform specifically designed and targeted interventions, which can be effectively evaluated from this baseline position

Topics: RA790, R1, HD4801, health_and_wellbeing, other
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2004
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