I'm a social worker in a government job. Last year, we were given a different computer program to manage our cases. We can still access the old program as "read only," but must do all our work in the new version. It is drastically different from the old system. Things take much longer to note or be processed.
As a result, we see fewer clients than before, our work has piled up, and all of us case workers are burned out and frustrated. The branch of government we work for refuses to return to the old system, or do more than say they're fixing the new system (slowly), and we should just deal with it. More training was briefly discussed but dismissed, as training is not the issue – workload, and quality of work life, are the issues.
Our union represents many other government employees, and after an initial surge of meetings with the employer, the union seems to have backed off and is more focused on other issues. What can we do? Not only are we suffering an enormous amount of stress, but our clients are no longer getting the fast or decent help from us that they were used to – they are also suffering.
THE FIRST ANSWER
Director of people, Saje Natural Wellness, Toronto
New systems and processes often result in hurdles requiring a total commitment to the change management process by all people involved. Communication of the change, training and feedback are key, as is communication outlining the program's success and things to improve.
I strongly encourage you to use this change as an opportunity. Document key "pain points" of the new system, make suggestions for training, (and volunteer to lead it), and start a focus group with your colleagues to discuss work-around solutions – some colleagues may have better experiences than others, which they can share with the team.
I also encourage you to look for ways at work and outside the office to relieve stress and encourage your colleagues to join you. Try yoga, meditation, a daily walk or hobby. Use these outlets to focus on your wellness, which will translate back to your health at work.
THE SECOND ANSWER
I hear your frustration and empathize. You want to continue to do good work and provide quality service but this new program is making it harder to do that and you are overwhelmed as the loads pile up. It's a tough situation – but I think there are ways you can cope with this better. Here are a few ideas.
First, recognize that change can sometimes be hard, messy and disruptive. It sounds like the transition to the new program is all of that for you. Sometimes these changes eventually bring rewards. Can you think of another time in your life when something was initially disruptive and difficult but, in the end, things worked out, maybe even for the better? I wonder if that might come true in this situation.
Second, focus on controlling what you can. While you don't have control in decisions over bringing back the old program or fixing the new one, you do have control over how you react to this challenging situation.
Resisting change isn't going to serve you well. In fact, it's probably fuelling your frustration. You were told to "deal with it." While that may sound dismissive, there are self-empowering ways for you to deal with it better. One would be to reframe this challenge as an opportunity to stretch yourself and commit to finding new ways to adapt and work within the constraints.
Try to shift your focus toward doing what you can do, versus what you can't. One of the most depleting and stress-inducing mindsets is focusing on what isn't possible. While this new program is slowing you down (for now), the focus on frustration will slow you down even more. During this time, you might need to modify your own expectations (as well as others) about what can be achieved in a given timeframe. You likely will return to your higher level of output and service but for now work with what you have.
Finally, think carefully about how you communicate – with your clients and particularly your supervisors. Demanding the old system come back isn't working. You may not see this yet but you could potentially be a collaborative partner in this process by communicating in a way that positions you as a contributor. As you convey your concerns about the impact on service, try to also be part of the solution, perhaps by offering ideas about how to deal with the workflow challenges or manage service expectations in this time of transition.
It seems the new program is here to stay. The only change you can make is how you deal with it. Give it some more time and effort, and if things still don't change for the better, you may need to re-evaluate if you can and want to continue to work in this environment.
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