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Making space for escape

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The idea of an escape from the daily working grind often conjures up images of relaxing at home, weekends with friends or holidays in glorious locations.

The reality, however – like it or not – is that the vast majority of adults can expect to spend most of their time at work. Indeed, a 2018 study commissioned by The Association of Accounting Technicians reported that the average person living in Britain will spend 3515 full days – or 84,365 hours – of their lives working.

Carving out time to escape during the working day is therefore exceedingly helpful in maintaining wellbeing; arguably even more so than a periodic longed-for holiday. The challenge, of course, is that a busy veterinary practice is rarely the most conducive place in which to find a peaceful spot to escape for five minutes.

At Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service, there has been a very deliberate effort to change that. The Solihull-based practice – which offers both general and specialist veterinary services – has a stated aim of ensuring that the care offered to clients is matched by the support offered to staff. And to that end, a dedicated wellbeing room has recently been opened.

The idea is that it offers a calm setting in which any of Willows’ 175 members of staff can relax during breaks or before or after shifts. There is a range of comfortable seating and a small library has been curated. Books cover wellbeing topics such as personal development, mindfulness and stress reduction, as well as veterinary subjects.

Meanwhile, two ‘jars of joy’ feature top tips for emotional, mental and physical wellbeing. Employees have the opportunity to put forward their own top tips, which will in turn be shared with colleagues. It is also hoped the space will become a phone-free zone, in which staff can take a break from social media, emails and messaging and truly relax.

Staff can take their breaks away from the hustle and bustle

‘The staff at Willows do a stressful and sometimes upsetting job, so we thought it would be a good idea to create a beautiful area where staff can take their breaks away from the hustle and bustle,’ explains hospital director Tracey Morley Jewkes.

‘Whether they choose to read or simply have a few mindful moments, we want them to know this little haven is there for them to benefit from.’

Clearly not every practice will have the space or resources to fully mirror the Willows’ approach. But explicitly acknowledging that momentary escapes during the working day can be helpful is a good first step and it may well be that some of the approaches can be adapted by other practice managers and staff.

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