Investigating organizational support for social workers during a global pandemic : an exploratory sequential mixed-methods study.

May 2023
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The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was a novel global health disaster in which social workers experienced a rise in stress and needed support (Fish & Mittal, 2020; Holmes et al., 2021; Miller et al., 2020). According to Organizational Support Theory (OST), in exchange for tangible or socioemotional support from their employers, workers are more engaged (Eisenberger et al., 1986), and perceived organizational support can mediate the negative impacts caused by work strain (Baran et al., 2012). Thus, this dissertation investigated social workers’ experiences of support from their organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide helpful information to social work leaders and researchers. Following the exploratory sequential mixed-methods approach, this dissertation employed a phenomenological qualitative study, a scoping literature review, and a quantitative survey study. The qualitative study and the scoping review found that social workers needed support from their workplace through multiple means, such as communication, co-worker connection and emotional support, tangible support, equity, and work flexibility. Work flexibility was an essential form of organizational support found in both studies. Also, according to OST, work flexibility is an element of support that can help employees engage in their work (Baran et al., 2012). Therefore, the third study analyzed social workers’ work flexibility relative to their work setting during COVID-19. Most of the social workers in the sample received more work flexibility from their employers during the pandemic across work settings. A cumulative odds ordinal logistic regression (OLR) with proportional odds showed that work settings were a significant factor in predicting more work flexibility during the pandemic. Social workers in school and healthcare settings were the least likely to report additional work flexibility compared to other settings within the sample. The findings from this dissertation present new insights into social workers’ experiences of organizational support during COVID-19 and provide recommendations for future similar disasters.