Impact of Covid-19 on work, study and family

Catherine Rundle and Chris Norman, Student Social Workers, Open University , UK.


We have all heard or spoken of Covid-19 and its devastation in recent months.  The panic, chaos and uncertainty that it has brought has not just affected us personally but professionally and academically.  As social work students at the Open University, it has been a fascinating time to be learning about our profession while being social work employees.

Time in planned placements ended abruptly, but changes allowed us to continue our learning journey towards qualification through continued placement days in local authority social care teams,. Working at home, the new norm, has posed many challenges. These included practical arrangements, e.g., avoiding important calls being interrupted, home-schooling children who required frequent attention and food almost constantly. Other challenges included the limited ability of rural internet speeds to cope with the extra demands,  adding pressure during difficult circumstances with Skype calls frequently dropping out or connections failing. Juggling the demands of work, family and study have meant being creative about the use of time.

Working from home means we are spending significantly more time in front of the computer instead of normally visiting service users in their homes or joining face-to-face tutorials. That feeling of being removed from usual student and work support networks led us to spend increasing numbers of hours at the computer, desperate not to miss out on what is going on elsewhere in ’Teams’. It is only after many weeks of working in this way that we are beginning to recognise the impact not only on us but on our families. Catherine certainly noticed this when she took her eldest child back to school for the first time. Her usually confident and outgoing 8-year-old, froze in fear and became distressed at the thought of so many people and the possible risk of infection. Children missing their friends, as indeed we also are, missing that closeness and the ability to physically reach out in times of need. This has increased isolation, loneliness and a craving for precious time together.

Finding time to study has been challenging, with the increased workload and extended working   hours that mirror health colleagues, as we seek to reduce increased risk for vulnerable service-users and pressure on hospitals. Distance learning with the Open University should make this new reality easy, but it has become so much harder. The blurring of the normal divide between work and home has impacted study time and the different elements of our lives. We are due to qualify soon and are looking forward to becoming qualified practitioners. We hope that life can feel rather more normal than it does now, and are planning to embed hopeful and strength-based practices in our future work. Covid-19 could have been considered a barrier and hindrance to our learning. However, upon reflection, we have developed our emotional resilience and communication skills. These, we would not have acquired without this pandemic.