“I have learned over the years that standing back to take a good long hard look can be really helpful. Whether that is undertaken on my own, or with a trusted critical friend. Equally I have learned it is important at times to simply walk away . . taking a break from my passion for my project/s, and simply something do something else for a while, whether that be simply for a few hours, or in cases for a few days”.
How would you describe your program?
Netwalking South West is a business that aims to bring business and the wellbeing agenda together www.netwalkingsouthwest.co.ukthere is a lot of information contained within the various pages that I think gives a good and comprehensive overview of the business. However in brief, what I am trying to do, is bring the business and wellbeing agenda together through the act of well-structured, guided and facilitated walks.
What particular issues are you addressing? Is there a fundamental issue in this?
I’m addressing several issues at once, physical health and wellbeing, mental health and wellbeing, connection and connectivity.
Over time I have observed coupled with the forward march of many advances in modern technology, we are becoming increasingly more static in the workplace. The downside of these advances means that whilst we have become so incredibly clever technologically, we’ve almost totally designed out, all but the most infinitesimal of human movements in many arenas. Witness the static nature of much of our modern workforce, legions of workers sitting hunched over monitors with only the barest physical flicker as hands glide over keyboards or fingers twitch on a mouse button. As technology takes over of these functions our bodies use to execute, we are unwittingly creating a useless body for tomorrow, instead of using our bodies for what they were designed for. We then compensate with leisure activities, thus moving our body becomes a lifestyle choice, rather than an integral part of our daily lives.
This inevitably creates problems for us as individuals and on a wider level, issues for any employer as the workforce becomes increasingly sedentary, they potentially become increasingly unwell as a result.
I am interested in reversing this trend. In helping people to not only be more active in the workplace, but to assist in building greater connections with each other, as this is often forgotten about in the contemporary highly pressured corporate environment
By the very act of helping organisations to walk and talk, whether that is inter – departmental meetings, new teams who need to come together and get to know quickly, or whether it’s a session focussed on looking at a particular work related issue or issues. What NWSW does is build real connections within the workforce in a very easy and natural way.
Why did you decide to do this?
Through my concern for the planet, for human life, and my desire to see more consciousness around one planet living, I felt called to do something.
Observing the current trends in education, which, broadly speaking seem to be primarily concerned with the endless hoop jumping of exams and testing, as opposed to questioning and real debate. Seemingly the primary function, to educate us up out of our bodies, and into our heads, away from the head, heart and hands, the qualative and into the championing of the purely rational side, and quantative mind set.
With my desire to preserve human life and wanting us to flourish in a way that is in line with respecting all life on the planet, then for me, there is something about waking people up.. However, I feel that if we want to take people with us, then I believe that ‘waking up’ process needs to be both gentle and enjoyable, for it to be effectively and sustainably embraced.
So in my concern for the environment, and for human beings as they are currently grappling with the explosion digital technology, email and social media I wanted to offer something as an antidote to what I have observed as the lessening of real contact and of real conversation. And, because of the frenetic pace of many workplace environments, this can be exacerbated in the workplace, were things can become fraught or factionalised very quickly. NWSW offers a very simple tool for enabling meaningful conversation with others in a very real and non-confrontational way.
My offer is not only to work with the organisations themselves, but with their HR departments as a training package. Thus enabling them to take on the process for themselves and intergrate into their working practices. A training the trainer element if you will. My aim, is for this to be as widespread as possible as it is a simple and effective way to tackle work place stress and wellbeing. In conversation with people in the corporate environment, there is a lot of denial around stress. Would be trainers have to approach corporates under the guise of performance enhancement and other such euphemisms rather than simply name it for what it is. And therein lies the problem.
Recent research figures suggest we are sitting 9.3 hours a day, more than we are sleeping at 7.7. Sitting, as Nilofer Merchant describes in her TED talk, has become the new smoking of our generation, so taking our meetings for a walk could be the answer to many work place ills.
In a recent Radio 4 programme, The City on the Couch, Psychoanalyst Mary Bradbury revealed the recent findings of the Health and Safety executive. Many industries are reporting extremely high rates of work related stress, publishing a startling statistic that 1 in 5 people declared that their workplace is either very or extremely stressful. This work related stress caused workers in the UK to lose over 11 million working days last year, and as Mary Bradbury points out, “that’s a lot of days of misery and ill health, and it also represents a huge loss to our economy.”
What are the obstacles you have had to overcome to get there?
I’ve been through many different challenges in my life, some trickier than others however I am known for my tenacity and steely determination.
As someone who experienced an insular, to some degree isolated and a fairly static and predominately indoors upbringing, I feel very motivated to help people move, get outside, connect to the seasons and more importantly reverse the prevalent trend of leaving the centrally heated house, getting in to the centrally heated car and from there into a centrally heated office and then at the end of the day, doing it all in reverse!
These early experiences also left me with a great desire to help people listen and connect more effectively. I am particularly motivated in helping to promote greater understanding between people, building greater connection and demystify the other – whether that be in the workplace, or wherever human beings gather in group. There is always “the other” – and what I am interested in, how can we bring “the other” or others together, not only to enhance our relationships with one another but also to enhance our relationship with the planet herself.
What helps you to keep going in hard times, was there a time when you thought you’d give up?
There are several times when I have had extremely hard times, financially and emotionally and yes, I have thought of giving up, however one of the joys of getting older is the development of at least, a little wisdom . . I have learned over the years that standing back to take a good long hard look can be really helpful. Whether that is undertaken on my own, or with a trusted critical friend. Equally I have learned it is important at times to simply walk away . . taking a break from my passion for my project/s, and simply something do something else for a while, whether that be simply for a few hours, or in cases for a few days. Also trying to collect people around me who understand me and what I am trying to do is also really helpful. And of course, I go for a good long walk, sometimes on my own because nature is a real healer, or walking and talking with a good friend.
On a scale of 1 to 10 where would you rate yourself in your life at the moment?
7 out of 10