Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Stress and Burnout Among Social Workers in The VUCA world of COVID-19 Pandemic

Version 1 : Received: 16 April 2021 / Approved: 20 April 2021 / Online: 20 April 2021 (17:50:05 CEST)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Dima, G.; Meseșan Schmitz, L.; Șimon, M.-C. Job Stress and Burnout among Social Workers in the VUCA World of COVID-19 Pandemic. Sustainability 2021, 13, 7109. Dima, G.; Meseșan Schmitz, L.; Șimon, M.-C. Job Stress and Burnout among Social Workers in the VUCA World of COVID-19 Pandemic. Sustainability 2021, 13, 7109.


This paper aims to contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on social workers and the social work profession in Romania. Research has shown that social work is a profession at high risk for developing the burnout syndrome, which has many detrimental effects on both social workers and the clients that they serve. Two conceptual models are used to frame the discussion: the theoretical framework of VUCA (volatility, uncer-tainty, complexity, and ambiguity) to discuss the challenges of the unprecedented context the COVID-19 pandemic has created for social workers; stress and burnout to explain the negative impact of this period of time. Based on convergent mixt methods, the study sample consisted of 83 social workers employed in statutory and private social services in Romania, from different fields of intervention. Results show that 25,3% of respondents suffer from a high level of burnout and 44.6% scored in a range that indicate a medium level of burnout. A group of 31.1% have managed to handle stress factors in a healthy manner. Main stressors found are especially personal (fear of contamination, personal and family) and work-related factors (workload, new legislative rules and decisions, inconsistency, instability, ambiguity of managerial decisions, or even their absence or non-assumption, lack of clarity of working procedures, limited managerial and supervisory support, limited financial resources), less than client related factors (lack of direct contact, risk of contami-nation in two ways, managing beneficiaries fears, difficulties related to technology and digital skills). Study results point to the importance of organizational support and developing a self-care plan that help protect against occupational stress and burnout. Recommendations are made putting forward the voice of fieldworkers and managers fostering initiatives and applications of sustainability-based measures and activities designed to deal with the challenges of the VUCA environment.


COVID-19; social work/er; stress; burnout; VUCA


Business, Economics and Management, Accounting and Taxation

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