No Agenda

This week’s guest contribution is from our student liaison co-coordinator, Ben Lilford. Under this long-winded title, Ben runs the College’s everyman show, performing all manner of tasks from the College’s planning, prospectus and promotion, coordinating volunteers, securing venues, networking and service outreach, website development and, of course, running the much-loved Wellbeing Café… And did I mention watering the office plants? As if that wasn’t enough, he still found a moment to write for our blog, reflecting on taking regular breaks in the workplace…

Ben, how do you do it?

A few weeks ago, I tried an experiment in our head office.  Taking heed of the advisory HSE (Health, Safety, Executive) guidelines that office workers should take 5 – 10 minutes away from their computers every 50 – 60 minutes, I used my non-screen time to stretch my legs and see what non-work related conversations I could get into with other colleagues in the building.

The results were quite varied.

Monday – Someone ‘rightly’ assumed I’d be interested in Nick Cave’s upcoming spoken word tour.

Tuesday – Learned about a botched social experiment which culminated in the bug infestation of a 6,000-strong employee work space in Canada.

Wednesday – Given the opportunity to show empathy to a colleague over a recent bereavement.

Thursday – Attempted to haggle with one of our service managers over some beverage samples he’d been given to review by a local drinking establishment.

Friday – Encouraged one of our office workers, who was experiencing poor mobility, to make use of free desk we have in the Wellbeing College office on Fridays.

Why am I telling you this?  Because healthy wellbeing is linked to social interaction, knowing and being known, listening and being heard.  Practising the art of conversation gives you access to things both big and small.  As well as not despising the day of small beginnings, it’s also good to not despise the day of small conversations. From the simplest of conversations can grow trust, connection and empathy.  Feelings we are all in need of, wherever we are in life.

Apart from our usual, class-based sessions, the Wellbeing College runs a weekly Wellbeing Café which happens every Tuesday between 2pm & 4pm at The Station Kitchen Café, Silver Street, Bristol, BS1 2AG.  Established in 2016 as an information point and informal learning environment for people interested in attending the College’s wellbeing sessions, the Café has flourished in the three years since, with regulars who come every week and new arrivals all the time.

There is a reason for this. Despite leaving their first session laden with information on College courses, people continued to return to the Café because they found that beyond information, it offered a space to meet people they could get into natural conversation with.  People who didn’t treat them as a label, or as a problem to be fixed/supported but who would just chat to them with no agenda.  It was out of these conversations we’ve had people make steps into picking up the reigns of their life again, whether it’s been new social relationships, getting into volunteering/employment, or just simply feeling that they are welcome in wider society (especially since the Wellbeing Café takes place in an open public café space).

Regular conversation is a big healer for many of the wounds people have. Being helped or helping someone to feel on the same level as others, regardless of background or current circumstances, can have deep lasting effects that shouldn’t be underestimated in anyone’s recovery.

Why not come along to a Café session over the next month and see for yourself?

Wellbeing Café
Every Tuesday
2pm – 4pm
The Station Kitchen, Silver Street, Bristol, BS1 2AG

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