Original Research - Special Collection: Mental Health Research in African Organisations

Factors and effects of work-related stress and burnout on the well-being of social workers in the Eastern Cape province, South Africa

Jabulani G. Kheswa
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 45 | a1661 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v45i0.1661 | © 2019 Jabulani Gilford Kheswa | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 March 2019 | Published: 10 October 2019

About the author(s)

Jabulani G. Kheswa, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa


Orientation:Work-related stress and burnout among social workers are on the rise because of extensive workload, job dissatisfaction and exposure to traumatic situations. Therefore, one should determine how they impact the well-being.

Research purpose: This study determined the factors and effects of work-related stress and burnout on the well-being of social workers.

Motivation for the study: An alarming number of social workers show no compassion towards the clients owing to burnout. Therefore, more research is needed for social workers to enhance their purpose and work engagement.

Research approach/design and method: This qualitative study was designed from an interpretivist perspective. Fourteen social workers, aged 35–59 years, from two Department of Social Development and Welfare offices (Alice and King Williams Town) selected through purposive sampling participated in the study. Data were gathered by means of focus group interviews and grounded theory was applied for data analysis.

Main findings: The study results confirmed that social workers attributed their work-related stress to lack of resources such as transport, computers and inadequate emotional support from their supervisors. Thus, they demonstrated impaired personal strength and poor human relations.

Practical/managerial implications: To achieve commitment and optimism, there should be recruitment of new staff and salary increase for social workers.

Contribution/value-add: The study results should provide coping strategies for social workers when faced with secondary traumatic stress.


Burnout; Well-Being; Social Workers; Work-related Stress; Coping; Emotional Support; Job Satisfaction; Resources; Trauma


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