How Much Time Does a Social Worker Spend on Paperwork?

People looking to make a real difference in the world often find themselves drawn to the world of the social worker. Lives are literally changed when social workers become advocates for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Unfortunately, the lives of social workers have become more complicated and difficult due to the increased requirements of social work paperwork.

Legal Documentation

Lives are changed on a daily basis when it comes to social work. In order to make sure everything is aboveboard and falls within the parameters set up by various programs, paperwork needs to be filled out honestly and thoroughly. The social worker's paperwork consists of what seems to be an endless stream of legal documents and those documents provide valuable information to all parties concerned.

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Proper Phrasing

One of the reasons that the social worker's paperwork is so time-consuming is the need to ensure all proper terminology and phrasing is in place. For example, social workers need to report on what they see and also need to keep their opinion out of the paperwork as much as possible. In addition, when information is passed to them from a client, they need to list that information as "reported by" in order to make it clear they are not undertaking to perform any kind of medical diagnosis or treatment plan.


One of the reasons that social workers tend to suffer from work-related frustrations is because so much time is spent on working on paperwork. An article in Pacific Standard pointed out that many medical social workers find themselves spending two hours on filling out forms for every one hour they deal with a face-to-face engagement with one of their clients.


Because of this increased emphasis on paperwork, social workers are leaving their field, despite wanting to make a difference in the lives of their clients. Part of the reason they are leaving has been determined to be their dissatisfaction with having to perform so much paperwork. Other factors are listed as having tremendous workloads and just basic job burnout.

Systemic Changes

It seems obvious the way to cut back on social work paperwork is to find more efficient ways to handle the various functions the social workers perform. While many organizations imply they are always looking for ways to improve their efficiency, an article in Forbes highlights a serious problem in many organizations, both public and private.

Simply put, the companies would rather simply continue with the status quo, even though it might be inefficient and stressful, rather than going through the process of making changes. Some forward-thinking organizations, however, are embracing new software programs and more streamlined approaches to the social worker situation, providing some much-needed relief from the stressful and time-consuming problems of excessive paperwork.

While it might seem as if there is no end in sight for social work paperwork, the reality is that changes are being made. Emphasis is being placed on providing help and assistance to those in need, rather than in ensuring every moment of every day is properly documented and recorded. This enables the social worker to get back to the business of giving a helping hand to those needing assistance.