Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Overwork and Performance

In a generally thoughtful article, but one with which I had a number of disagreements, Annie Hudson, chief executive of the College of Social Work, examines some of the implications of the Daniel Pelka tragedy.

My most fundamental difference of opinion with her concerns her comment:
“… the SCR pointed to workload and resource pressures across different children's services. These are part of the context, though they cannot excuse poor practice. However, we ignore them at our peril” (my emphasis).
We do ignore them at our peril and sadly they are part of the context and, in my view, workload and resource pressures often do excuse poor practice.

People who are over burdened are likely to make more mistakes. Research [1] and commonsense tell us that people whose workloads are excessive will not perform to the appropriate standards. Overwork results in undue stress and undue stress degrades performance. Would you want to fly on an airline where the pilots were chronically overworked?

The elephant in the room in many serious case reviews is that the organisations providing the services were experiencing a variety of problems resulting in overworked and stressed people delivering services as well as they could, but at an unacceptably low standard.

None of us should be giving policy makers any more excuses for not resourcing child protection well. Adequate resourcing is a necessary, if not sufficient, condition of a safe service.


[1] See for example Morgan, B. and Bowers, C. (1995) “Teamwork stress: implications for team decision making”. In Guzzo and Salas (eds) Team Effectiveness and Decision Making in Organizations Sanfrancisco: Jossey Bass.