Vicky's work placement at Norfolk Chambers of Commerce

Vicky Bristow, UEA

My name is Vicky and I am involved in a wellbeing project at the Chambers of Commerce.  It has been two weeks into the project and already I can feel my confidence grow, I am aware I am developing new skills and strengthening abilities I already had.  I wanted to write about my experience, partly to share it and partly because in the writing of it I can reflect and more fully realise the process of growth.  

Briefly, the project is around the Chambers' investment in staff wellbeing.  There is a scheme in which the staff each have ten pounds a month to spend on wellbeing activities. My job is to promote the idea of wellbeing within the organisation and inspire the take-up of activities that support this aim that is either free or makes use of the budget.  I am doing this by giving short presentations on a range of topics, that include “growth mindset”, and the neurochemical reward of moving or doing things together in order to show the science of why it is worth investing time into wellbeing.    

At this point I feel I ought to introduce myself, to say how I got this wonderful opportunity and what lead me to my passion for wellbeing.  I am a student of psychology, currently studying for my Master’s in Cognitive Neuroscience, and as part of that, I was asked to find an unpaid work placement, something that would challenge and stretch me.  I sent out emails, and Philippa invited me in for a chat, to see what I could offer.  When Philippa started talking about the wellbeing project, I felt myself light up! I have a passion for the idea of human potential, I have studied the behavioural and biological evidence as to why simply looking after yourself is a good long-term investment (this will be part of my wellbeing presentations and can be an entire entry in itself!).  I found myself enthusiastically setting out how I could support the aims of the Chamber and went away to start preparing!

I can remember when it suddenly dawned on me that this was rather a new challenge, it did rather fit the criteria of stretching me and putting me somewhat out of my comfort zone! I sat down and wrote, I’m lucky enough to have some amazing friends who are experienced in the field of wellbeing, including a psychotherapist and a psychiatrist.  I read, I wrote and my kind friends checked through my ideas, so I knew I was going in the right direction.  Then came the day of presenting my first set of slides! 

Recently someone explained to me the theory behind walking (I have nine-year-old disabled twins who are currently going through this process).  They said that each time you move your leg forward you are unbalancing yourself, putting yourself in the precarious position of nearly falling over.  However, generally the other leg moves forward quickly and brings back balance, but to move forward takes the risk, you have to unbalance yourself.  That is how starting this project felt, but I didn’t fall over, and I have been met with such kindness and support that taking each subsequent step has become more and more natural until actually, I feel safe.  

What is it like to work with the team at the Chambers?  It is apparent that they are a close-knit team, who enjoy each other’s company and support each other in times of stress.  However, even though I am only in on a Monday morning, to give my presentation during the team meeting, I do not feel like an outsider, I feel welcome and I feel included.  I have been able to observe the investment they have already made to wellbeing, and been able to highlight their strengths and provide some evidence as to why they are doing well already, for example, the research behind why having dogs in the office (as they do on a Friday) can be such a positive.  In group discussions, they have spoken about their passion and skills in wellbeing, so I am really happy that a crafting group has emerged as a wellbeing plan! 

I think I want to end this by talking about the step they took in giving a mature student, who had never taken on a challenge like this before time and opportunity.  I want to reflect on how for both sides this maybe was a risk, in the same way, that as that first leg moves the body risks being vulnerable to gravity!  However, in their kindness and inclusivity, they have embraced new ideas, they have given a rather nervous student a real chance and fed me too (I rather love the wellbeing fruit bowl!).  I know for me, this has been a journey of moving forward with skills, knowledge and confidence, one that will set me in a good direction for after graduation!     


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