Social work diary: ‘I miss the non-verbal cues, the looks and eye contact’

A practitioner reflects on the challenges, frustrations and victories from having to shield from the public for 12 weeks

Image credit © Joshua Miranda from Pexels


I turn on my laptop. It feels like day 657 of lockdown.  My new job starts tomorrow, and I’m fortunate that I met my new team before homeworking became the norm. However, my new role has been temporarily suspended because of Covid-19 and I’ve received an NHS letter advising that I have to be ‘shielded’ for the next 12 weeks because of a chronic health condition. It feels a jolt to the system.

To distract myself I read through emails (mainly Covid-19 updates) and chat with my former manager about tying up loose ends and identifying outstanding work.

I phone a service user to complete a review of his Care Act needs. Instantly I realise how difficult it will be to carry out an assessment over the phone. I am now  reliant on his words, his pattern of speech and the silences. I miss the non-verbal cues, the looks and eye contact. I work hard to avoid it becoming a phone interview and eventually, we establish to establish a tenuous rapport. He tells me that he received a food parcel from a food bank two days ago but is bemused by the bags of rice and pasta that it contains. He wants something familiar that he can cook, like bacon. We chat about how he can use the rice but it’s difficult because he is overwhelmed and anxious about lockdown.


I talk about job roles with my new team manager and how my shielded status will affect what I can do. She puts me in contact with a neighbourhood social work team who need my help. I feel supported and useful.

My work laptop is needed by someone who doesn’t have their own PC at home. A colleague offers to collect it. I try to sterilise the laptop as best as can and leave it outside my door,  with a note, waving  to her through the window as it’s collected.

I catch up with an old teammate who tells me about home visits he is doing. Whilst most people in the team are working from home there are still depot injections to be administered and some visits which need to be face to face. I feel a mixture of both guilt and relief to be at home.


I discuss my new, temporary role, with a community hub team manager. I’ll be offering phone advice case support to community social workers, focusing on mental health.  It feels good to talk social work and I end the call feeling useful.

I answer emails, unsuccessfully attempt to call payroll, and try to sort out delivery of a new work phone as I’m currently using my own mobile. Everything seems to take twice as long as usual.

I complete two Care Act documents, raging over my intermittent home wifi,  and send them for authorisation. I chase a care coordinator for a support plan and go through it with her, offering suggestions. It feels like a productive day.


My manager and I talk about the practicalities of working from home, what equipment I need and how I can stay in touch with the rest of the team. She’s supportive and listens as I talk about my worries at being away from the office.

My virtual desktop is playing up, so I log a call with IT support through their rather clunky online system. It’s agonisingly slow and I almost throw my machine at the wall in frustration when my screen goes blank.

I speak to a care coordinator about a case we were joint working on and she updates me on numbers of Covid-19 patients from a local care home. It makes me feel sad and anxious and I snatch a cuppa and take a break.


Hurrah! My virtual desktop works! I feel victorious. My team arranges a group chat for next week and I test out the necessary software on my machine. The care coordinator from yesterday has come back to me with some panel queries  and we go through the support plan again.

An email tells me I’m getting a new phone. Delivering it to me is going to be problematic but I am going to save that task for next week. Now it’s time to switch off and try and think about something other than coronavirus.

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3 Responses to Social work diary: ‘I miss the non-verbal cues, the looks and eye contact’

  1. Denice April 30, 2020 at 9:44 pm #

    We are Social workers

    Sadly this seems to be a reflection of how our “valued” key worker role is seen. We are social workers and need to be with people as the title stated.

    We were discussing the sad loss of companionship and collectiveness in our team chat”on line” today. We agreed that the social bit is what we do as social workers and it is important for us to remember that we will be back to it as soon as the restrictions of Covid19 is lifted. In time to come we will reflect on how important this time now is.
    It gives me time to reflect on the importance of our roles and how valuable we are .

  2. Denise R April 30, 2020 at 10:46 pm #

    Sounds like you are doing a brilliant job – well done. It cannot be easy transferring to a new job being shielded. So many practical issues to work through though your support sounds good. Social work values shining through! Good luck.

  3. sarah May 4, 2020 at 6:49 pm #

    A good social worker never stops.
    I can’t help but wonder who the author is behind this article.

    You are gem whoever you are. Stay strong.