The strangest things you’ve had to do at work: the Top 10

We asked you to send us tales of comic or unusual things you have been asked to do at work and were inundated with amusing anecdotes. Here are your top 10 entries


“Many years ago, I had to attend an MRI scan as the keyworker for a young woman who was extremely overweight. But once we got into the room with the technicians and consultant, the young woman became quite hysterical and refused to lie down on the electronic bed that would slide into the scanner.

The request eventually came for me to do it first. So there it was: I had to do a dummy scan run to calm the client down. She eventually followed suit.”

Jenny Baker, social worker, west London


“On my last day of employment with the community care team in East Renfrewshire many years ago, I was asked to visit the house of a service user who had been admitted to psychiatric hospital to check if their collection of tarantulas, snakes and hamsters needed to be rehoused.

I was told that the service user liked to let his ‘pets’ roam free, and that it would require a mental health officer and myself to enter the house because of health and safety issues (although where this action is documented, God only knows).

On entering the house, the mental health officer discovered a tarantula on a bedside cabinet beside her and we both ran screaming. (It later turned out to be the shedded skin of the tarantula, which had by then been safely stowed away with the rest of the animals with one of the service user’s friends for safe-keeping.)”

Gail Burgess, social worker


“The strangest thing I’ve been asked to do as part of my job is to play table football for 33 hours and 35 minutes non-stop.

This world record-breaking attempt took place on our organisation’s stand at the National Eisteddfod in Swansea last year to raise awareness about our work.

We received a bit of publicity and managed to break the record by a few minutes.

News of our success travelled fast, however, and the record was broken three weeks later in a pub in Essex.”

Rhian Jones, education co-ordinator, Shelter Cymru


“A couple of years ago I was advised by our legal department that, under Section 48 of the National Assistance Act, my team had to ensure that the livelihood of a man detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 did not suffer as a result of his detention and his mother’s subsequent admission to emergency respite care.

The pair lived in a detached property that stood in substantial grounds, from which the son ran a small, but busy and profitable market garden. So, for the next five weeks, my team pot-bedded plants (more than 3,000 of them), fed bantams and chickens (more than 200 of them), collected eggs produced by said poultry, fed and watered tomato plants and lettuces, and sold produce to callers who visited in their droves.”

Judy Parker, acting team manager, social care and adult protection business support, Doncaster Council


“While working in social care in the early 1990s, a service user I had developed a soft spot for asked if I would be present at the imminent birth of her third child.

I agreed to her request providing I could make it in time. After several false alarms, I made it up to the County Hospital where she was in full blown labour. I felt very privileged to see the baby’s head crowning, only to hear ‘mum’ ask me: ‘What colour is it Mo?’ I replied: ‘It’s as pink as you and I,’ to which she replied: ‘F**k me, it must be the pebble-dashers then!’ – a reference to some maintenance work that had recently taken place in the area.”

Mo Watson, children’s services practitioner, NSPCC Lincoln


“During my first few weeks of working in Cornwall when I was a social worker in an adult social care team, I was called down to the filing room to find the whole team and three eggs laid by hens owned by two of my colleagues and the team manager.

My task: to judge the winner in the best egg competition, held once a year with a beautiful rosette for first place. I rose to the challenge and went through a tried and tested procedure (apparently) of judging the size, consistency, colour, firmness and taste of egg shell, yolk and white.

I chose egg B, which turned out to be the egg nurtured by the team manager. My move to Cornwall from the big city was about finding a different way of living and working. I realised I had found this – and acquired an important new skill in the process.”

Clare Jackson, approved social worker, home treatment team, Cornwall


“When I first started work as a semi-qualified social worker in the mid-1970s, I was asked whether I would be prepared to accompany a more experienced worker on-call if necessary.

The call came at midnight. A teenager and her baby had been taken into care from a brothel in the dockland area of the city and had absconded.

When we arrived at the brothel, the senior social worker suggested that I wait outside while he went in to talk to the girl.

While I was waiting, a man came up to me and asked me whether I was working. I, in my naivety, said yes! Needless to say, I did not actually go as far as carrying out what I was then asked to do!”

Helen Kirkby, social worker, Newport


“Some time in my distant past as a Canadian social worker, I worked as a student in a mental health team at a psychiatric unit. We had a client, who I will name Bob, who regularly came in when he was needing additional support. One of those times, he arrived in a wheelchair, with no possessions and minus his prosthetic leg.

Bob had been living in sheltered accommodation, had got behind in his payments and was unceremoniously left on the streets. When I contacted the house he had been staying at, I was informed that the contents of his room had been disposed of that morning and anything he may have had was now in the ‘dumpster’ – or skip.

I discussed this with my colleagues and it was decided that this was more humiliation than Bob should endure. So, being of the lesser tenure, it fell upon me to take a swan dive into the skip (or go ‘dumpster-diving’).

After a few hours, I surfaced with said limb in hand. Whoever said social work wasn’t glamorous?”

Kim McPherson, social worker, The Highland Council


“Some years ago, while supporting adults with learning disabilities living in the community, I began talking to one man about his parents’ death. It turned out he hadn’t been to their funerals and wanted to get a decent headstone to replace the unmarked stone on their plot in the local cemetery.

We managed to get a decent headstone engraved for £50. However, when I checked with the cemetery what it would cost to set it at the plot, I was told this would also be £50, doubling the cost beyond what the man could reasonably afford. So we decided to do it ourselves instead.

One evening, just before dark, we went to the cemetery, armed with the headstone, some sand and cement and a spade, trying not to look too suspicious. We were leaving the cemetery at dusk, now with only a spade and a satisfied look, when we were stopped by a security guard, who, naturally enough, wanted to know what we were up to.

Future visits to the grave to leave flowers were uneventful, but I will always remember the time carrying out my job led to me being suspected as a potential grave robber!!”

Jeremy Winter


“When I was a social work student way back in the long hot summer of 1976, I spent part of a residential placement at a halfway house deep in the countryside. One of my duties was to see to the goat that was tethered outside and ate anything within its reach.

One morning I discovered that someone had let the goat off its lead and it had eaten some deadly nightshade. The goat looked decidedly green around the gills and the vet was duly summoned and put it out of its misery. He then said that the goat would have to be buried forthwith otherwise it would be a health hazard. I found a spade, dug a shallow hole, and laid the body to rest.

The next day, I noticed that the ground above the goat’s grave was rising alarmingly and continued to rise until, by the evening, it was a foot high.

I realised that the heat was bloating the goat’s stomach. I found a sharp implement and punctured the goat to release the gas and restore the ground to its previous level state.

I observed the grave carefully for the remainder of my placement in case the goat decided to rise again. I’ve always felt that my social work qualification was slightly lacking for failing to teach me how to safely bury ruminants in a heat wave.”

Colin Luger, social worker, Bristol

Congratulations Colin, an iPod Shuffle is in the post to you

For more tales of dressing up, dealing with animals, and undertaking strange tasks, view the complete list of your top 50 entries

If you think you can beat these stories, email your strange tale to Lauren Revans

This article appeared in the 16 August issue under the headline “Strange but true…”

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