Residents are a lot more anxious due to being isolated for an extended period.

Alicia Lidbury started working for Lewisham Homes during lockdown so has never formally met her team. As community engagement manager she would normally expect a great deal of face-to-face contact with residents – but much of that has had to move online.

“I started in Lewisham Homes during lockdown so I haven’t formally met my team. I feel that I’ve missed out on the team element of building working relationships, something which normally evolves over cups of tea in the canteen, or the day-to-day engagement of walking over to someone’s desk to ask how to do something, rather having to use Zoom or email them. There have also been noticeable housing development challenges due to the COVID restrictions. The greatest effect has been adapting how we achieve social value outcomes for our communities whilst still sticking to restrictions.

“My biggest challenge has been changing the way I work. This has meant moving over to a more virtual platform, but also being mindful of engaging with everybody within the community – including those who can’t access the internet so easily. For example, we previously did ‘walk and talks’ with our Resident Steering Groups, where we would invite residents to give feedback on issues on their estate. We’d all have tea in the community hall afterwards. Now, we have to host the talks over Zoom which makes it more stilted and formal. It really takes away the personal element but obviously our engagement still needs to continue. There have also been noticeable difference in peoples’ well-being during this last lockdown. Residents are a lot more anxious due to being isolated for an extended period. However, many residents have said the group meetings give them focus and a way to engage positively with their community.

“Ensuring self-care has really kept me going in lock-down. There’s an Instagram personal trainer who I follow for free lockdown sessions. Obviously there are set-backs like having to meet your Nan on her doorstep, rather than being able to go inside. This has been hard but it’s all for the greater good I suppose. The routine of work also keeps me sane in terms of having that structure built into my day. While it can be isolating, my work really does ground me.

“My most positive experience during lockdown involved hosting via Zoom an Animation workshop for the young residents of Achilles Street in New Cross. This was co-hosted with myself and a professional animator who trained the kids how to create story boards. These were showcased to the community while Cabinet Member for Housing Paul Bell and the Young Mayor attended to hand out certificates. This really boosted morale for the Achilles Street community.

“My greatest fear looking forward lies in the ‘unknown’ of when and where or how everything will resume to normal. My greatest hope…never having to wear a face mask again! And I hope that we can get back out into the community, start rebuilding face-to-face relationships rather than virtual relationships - getting to know the residents more and more.”

Alicia spoke to us in February 2021.