Five-year reflections on work and wellbeing

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Today marks five years at Twining Enterprise for me. This is technically my longest serving stint with an organisation. I had previously been at Prince’s Trust and VSO for a similar length of time, however, they were voluntary roles and secondments between certain roles.  At Twining I walked through the front door at 84 Uxbridge Road five years ago and have been loving it here every day since!

The feeling I got walking in on day one, has been something that I have continued to feel. Then, my previous Manager, met me in the corridor with a big smile and a handshake and a ‘Frank? How are you?’ that felt genuine and keen to really know how I actually was. There are lots of moments that I feel that Twining practise what we preach (a well-being organisation that supports individuals with mental health conditions to gain or sustain employment) and how we interview is definitely one of those things. I felt relaxed, I felt comfortable, and I felt I could be completely myself and completely honest, whilst being listened to and everybody genuinely wanting me to succeed!

I never knew then the significance of working for Twining. Over the five years together we have supported thousands of people into positive, life changing outcomes. We have navigated Covid and working from home, virtually. We have experienced the transition from one of our IPS programmes that we were delivering, to our latest West London Works employment support programme.  I have personally faced bereavement and a journey through IVF and my partner having a premature pregnancy. Each step of the way there has been a togetherness and a sense of family, where people consider others and support where possible. I’ve been able to thrive and in those moments where outside of work I’ve had personal issues, they have offered support and genuinely cared.

I came into the organisation as an Employability Skills Trainer, working across our IPS service, supporting people far away from the jobs market to become more confident to independently job search. I created a training package and delivered this to groups or individuals, working across the organisation in all of the Boroughs we delivered in. Every session gave me valuable learning in how there are so many factors in why someone may be out of work. Searching for employment is such an isolating task and looking for new opportunities is a full-time job in itself. Having to stay motivated throughout is an uphill climb and it’s why the Employment Specialist role is so vital. I was part of the reason people were able to achieve positive outcomes, either directly supporting them or part of several people collaborating.

During this time, I also became the Employee Engagement Lead. This gave valuable insight into the people working for Twining and Twining’s desire to support its staff. This gave me an opportunity to gain some knowledge working behind the scenes, or more closely with our CEO Oli and in part the Senior Leadership Team. I worked with a colleague, and we led sessions that staff could share any ideas, worries or concerns anonymously and this could get reviewed. We organised staff parties and staff training and it was a privileged position.

Throughout my time at Twining, I have always been completely happy with the role I’ve been in. Twining continuously gave me the feeling of being completely in my comfort zone, whilst also being challenged! I’ve always been keen to manage people, manage projects and as time went on, I started getting opportunities to use other skills I’d had prior to coming to Twining, whilst developing new ones. I managed the delivery of a small grant and started to manage someone. I loved the Employability Skills role I was doing and absolutely loved supporting our clients, however I soon realised my real passion was for managing people and supporting their work with clients.

This eventually led to becoming a Service Manager and managing a large team, holding a space for them to be able to succeed. I always wanted to provide our staff with the support, encouragement and tools to develop and progress. We’ve had many themes in Twining over the past five years such as Culture and Trust. I’ve always wanted to motivate the team, I’ve always wanted to lead but in every role I’ve been in, I’ve always wanted to lead from the back. I wanted to encourage people to lead and to progress and hopefully I’ve done that and continue to do that. I continue to be blown away by our staff’s passion and enthusiasm to support the people we work with. It takes a certain individual to work as an Employment Specialist, to manage a caseload and build relationships with many different people, from all different backgrounds, who all have very different needs. Understanding the jobs market and what different employers are looking for, and being able to share that with someone and give them the hope and belief they can gain employment, is remarkable. Behind all those numbers and targets are people!

I’ve taken all my learnings, and I am now leading our West London Works (WLW) service, where we are collaborating with Shaw Trust.  It’s another reason why these past five years have been so exciting. Twining is continually looking to support more individuals in the communities we work in and is prepared to step out of its comfort zone to do so. Again, such a unique opportunity has started so well because of our people. I reflect on how we support thousands of people each year, looking to find a company or organisation, or start a business, so they can feel valued, so they can be proud, so they can feel a sense of purpose.

What I looked for when I applied to Twining five years ago:

  • Due to my own mental health impacted by commuting to work, I looked for an employer that was close to home.
  • I looked for a job role I enjoyed doing, having come from the previous two roles being something completely different to my previous skills and experience.
  • I looked for a small organisation where everyone would know everyone.
  • I looked for an organisation that promoted internally.

What I didn’t know I was looking for in an employer:

  • Regular well-being check-ins.
  • Encouragement from managers to practise self-care.
  • Well-being sessions.
  • Mental health first aid training and refresher training.

Why we get to say Twining is a family:

  • Our CEO is present, even delivering well-being sessions to the organisation during lockdown.
  • Our Trustees are well known and take pride in our staff, and an interest in what they’re doing.
  • Our managers speak to all staff regularly, delivering sessions to support staff and championing success!
  • Our new staff are well inducted and made to feel part of the team from very early on.
  • Everyone is able to reach out anytime, no matter what.
  • We are flexible to individuals needs, as long as there is open communication and trust.

My final thought on the past five years is that I’m grateful. Of course, in any job you have difficult or challenging days, things can go wrong, or things happening outside of work may be really important and time spent in work is time not spent on that. However, I have been able to look forward to a Monday far more here, than in previous roles. Friday is still celebrated, but the weekend is far more about recharging. The challenging parts of the job are hugely rewarding, so the busier times are usually because lots of people have been progressing. I’m grateful for the relationships, and for the people.

I really do appreciate the values Twining has and I believe in them and try to fulfil these with our clients and colleagues. We have an organisation that is relatively small, but because of the dedication of those people, the passion and the enthusiasm to deliver those values, we are making a big impact on society and I am grateful that I am a part of that.

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