In honour of International Women's Day WNT founder Jennie Duck shares her joy in working with a team of women at WNT
I have said it before and I’ll say it again – and again – Working With Women is Wonderful!! I did not intentionally set out to curate a team of women at West Norwood Therapies – I just set out to create a team that worked well together, that supported one another, that played their individual part in collaboration and contributing towards a healthy, happy and productive working environment. And it turns out this particular team of women does just that!
We are all professional and highly skilled in our fields and we all work well as independent, individual practitioners working one on one with clients. And then we come together and share, talk, laugh and support one another. During lockdown we had zoom calls almost every week and we all found this to be something akin to group therapy, a time we could check in and feel connected with one another.
For the first time we are planning an in-house ‘retreat’ this summer – a few days away together to enjoy one another’s company and strengthen our personal as well as professional bonds and treat one another to our therapies too.
Perhaps I’ve been lucky with this particular group of women, but given the women who have come and gone from WNT I know that the magic goes beyond our current small team. It is precious that we can mix the personal with professional, the emotional with the practical and offer one another a web of support where we feel secure and content in our work.
Here’s to all the Wonderful Women of the World. We love men too but today is all about the XXs so here I acknowledge Wonder where it rises 😊
Happiness at work
WNT founder Jennie Duck considers the pull towards happiness at work that led her to establish West Norwood Therapies and celebrates the ways in which we can find happiness at work. (it's International 'happiness at work' week by the way!)
This week is international ‘Happiness at Work’ week and it got me thinking about why I started West Norwood Therapies in the first place. To be happier at work!
I always loved my work as a massage therapist and now that I’ve not been practicing for a while I really miss the interaction with clients, working one-to-one with people in that way is a special thing. I loved the practical side of massage, of finding areas that needed attention and working on them to help bring relief and often insights for the client as to what was contributing to discomfort or what could help them in day to day life. There is an element of problem solving and the happy place where science meets art - this is really a blissful state for me when I find that balance. I loved the conversations that arose during that time together and the trust that built up over months and years of working with people. I loved the variety of personalities, of bodies, of challenges and of energy.
I’m using the past tense ‘loved’ as if my massage days are over! When really, as my volcano mad son says, I am just in a dormant phase and am keen to become active again soon.
Despite all of this interaction and variety working with clients, being a massage therapist can be a lonely job. You are always in the therapist role with clients, however friendly the interaction becomes. And unless you seek them out you can lack peer support. I worked in several clinics where I rented the room to see clients and I met other therapists there, but I felt like there was an opportunity for a more cohesive, shared working environment.
And so West Norwood Therapies was born. The idea was that this would be a collaborative collective and we would all contribute to the environment and running of the place and we would have regular meetups to offer one another peer support and become a network and team.
It’s our 7th birthday in October, a fact that makes me very happy indeed! And I feel even happier that the concept of a collaborative collective feels so collaborative and like such a collective now. Our team has evolved over the years and the shrinking of it with the closure of the studio room last year was a trauma that our smaller team has come through and I feel that we are now stronger than ever.
I am happy in my work and I am grateful for the team that makes this possible. Over that long gruelling winter lockdown we had weekly check-ins which were a bit like group therapy, we all opened up and supported one another. This has made us closer and sharing our vulnerabilities has given us a resilience that we couldn’t have achieved without.
Next weekend I’ll be in London for the first time since coming down to clear out the studio last summer. I am excited to see my lovely colleagues and have a meeting together to reflect on the past year and look forward to the next, to share and to plan, to celebrate and to look at what we have learned. I know it will be interesting, helpful, collaborative and fun. I am a lucky ducky to be in this position and I highly recommend opening yourself up to the possibility of strong work relationships and the happiness at work these can bring.
WNT founder Jennie Duck looks at how this time of year can represent clearing and new horizons for us individually and shares what this means for her and her family this 'back to school' season
It could have been our son’s first day of school in mid-August when the Scottish schools went back. We celebrated our choice not to enrol him with some ginger ice lollies (new discovery – amazing!) and splurging our monthly home ed budget within a few days on a trip to the Glasgow Science Centre, a day at a local activity park and a horse riding lesson.
For us this feeling is liberating and fuels a zest for a rich and creative life in our family home. It means the summer can go on a bit longer as we chop wood and turn veg into chutney and it means we can graudally build and change routines as fits us and the seasonal shape of our rural life.
Last week a friend was sharing with me his feelings about the new term down in England beginning and to him the return to school felt like a relief. For the shape of their family life school is a welcome and important part of the structure. It is liberating in how it allows parents to work and focus in work after the intensity of working and schooling from home over lockdown.
For me this step out of Summer into Autumn is a time of clearing, reflecting and planning. In the veg patch I am clearing beds of onions and celery, cleaning out pots, planning next years beds and planting winter veg. In my role with WNT I am looking forward to a London visit later this month to get together with the team for a reflection and planning session (as well as a knees up ;-) ) And in my personal life I am looking at my balance of work, home, friends, hobbies and commitments and seeing where I can even things out.
At WNT we have been working through the summer and yet there is s till a strong ‘back to school / work’ feeling that changes our dynamic and patterns come September. We shift gear and move into a more active phase, there’s a bit of freshness in the air and a drive to find momentum after the paradoxically busy and relaxing summer.
It seems that this move into autumn can carry this feeling of a new chapter, fresh horizons more than other seasonal shifts. I wonder how much this is engrained in us from our early childhood and school terms after the long summer and how much is the nature of the season that sees leaves shedding from the trees to leave the fullness of summer behind. We are moving on away from something, we are not yet in the midst of winter, we are not even in the midst of autumn. But we are leaving the summer behind and we are stepping into the next phase of our lives, jobs, schools, families and seasons.
Whatever this season holds for you I wish you well!
Sports massage therapist Lauren O'Sullivan shares her challenging experience in attempting a plastic free month and some helpful suggestions as to how to reduce your plastic consumption when it is ubiquitous. Prepare to be challenged!
July is ‘Plastic free month’. Its purpose is to raise awareness and encourage people to reduce their plastic waste. Sounds like a great idea and it might just be the reminder and call to action that some of us need to make a change in our plastic consumption and subsequent waste. But how easy is it?
Not so easy. I challenged myself to not buy any new plastic in the month of June. Using plastic products that I already had was okay, I just couldn’t buy any new plastic for a month...I lasted a week. Which in hindsight is quite impressive. I hadn’t realised before I set myself the challenge just how much plastic is EVERYWHERE. Not to mention that in the month of June I was having work done on my kitchen so my only food options were ready made meals or takeout: cue the plastic.
Kitchen work aside, I still thought that if I made the conscious decision to avoid buying plastic, I could. For that first week I deliberately bought take out food from places that I knew used cardboard boxes or, even better, compostable packaging. Another relatively easy choice, which I’ve already been making for several years, is taking my own cloth bags to go shopping. I also buy dry goods and toiletries such as hand soap and shampoo from a zero waste refill shop - more on that later.
All of the above aside, it is quite literally impossible to buy milk (dairy or alternative) without plastic and oat milk is something I consume daily. The only alternative there would be to make my own, and quite frankly I just don’t have the time! The other thing that is impossible to avoid is tags on clothing. I am an avid charity shop goer and I feel that reusing clothes that otherwise would be thrown out is a great waste saver, but you can’t avoid the plastic price tag! It’s in the little details that I got caught out (and those are just a couple of examples) and if I wasn’t doing the challenge I probably wouldn’t even notice them. It has really opened my eyes to just how much plastic is used. We don’t even realise our consumption of it on a daily basis.
If we can’t cut it out completely, thankfully, there are ways that we can REDUCE our plastic consumption and waste. Starting with zero waste refill shops. You bring your own container and fill it with ingredients or products that the shop buys in bulk, therefore reducing plastic packaging needs. Granted, there are some in London that only stock very expensive organic products and ingredients and charge extortionate amounts for them. However there are a few gems in and around West Norwood:
Sustenance - West Norwood (pop up at Portico Kitchen)
Healthier without - Streatham → apparently they now have their own oat milk dispenser!
BYO - Tooting market
Some other great ways to reduce are:
Where you do need to purchase plastic containers see if you can reuse them before recycling them. If you have kids, plastic containers can become all sorts of arty creations! If you are a keen gardener, plastic bottles or lids can become germination pots and plastic bags or sheets can become cloches. Paying a little bit of attention and being more conscious of your decisions in regard to plastic consumption and waste can make a big difference.
Start small and build habits. Good luck!
Why do I do what I do?
WNT founder Jennie Duck expands on the question Why Do We Do What We Do in her blog reflecting on what she loves and misses about being a massage therapist and how finding a therapist you connect with is so important.
Our team at WNT has been considering the question Why Do We Do What We Do? in honour of International Wellness Week and it’s made me miss working with clients more than ever!
For various reasons I haven’t worked as a massage therapist for 4 years now and I crave the return. I was setting up a treatment space at the start of 2020 but then covid hit and all of us had to hold back with the work we know can help so much, it has been tantalising for all!
Helping people is a huge part of why I want to get back to it. During my time not working I have continued to be a client to various practitioners as well as interactions with medical professionals and I am all the more acutely aware of why what we do is so valuable. The hour that we spend with our clients is precious time, it is an intimate, intricate and opportunistic time where the bond that we develop allows our work to do its magic. Bodywork therapists have knowledge and intuition and skill and if we can hold the space for what needs attention and a good connection happens with the client then these all fuse together to give a powerful result.
One thing I love is how my work as a massage therapist is to combine the science of my training in anatomy, physiology and massage therapy with intuition that comes from an innate sensitivity as well as hours of listening and working with clients. This combination of science and intuition leads to massage being a form of art – I sort of let my hands (and forearms and elbows!) go and find what they need to find. This makes massage a creative outlet for me and one that is in a relationship with someone that I am working with, so it is strongly connecting and rewarding in that way.
Each of us in the team at WNT has our own approach to work – even when our treatments are ostensibly similar we are each unique as practitioners and how we approach our work. It is really a personal thing and, I believe, that that personal aspect is what makes our work so valuable. Connection really does have a powerful impact and I always encourage people to find the practitioner you connect with as this can determine the potency of your treatment and make it all the more enjoyable too.
WNT founder Jennie Duck shares some thoughts in time for Small Business Saturday about shopping local this festive season, how much we have to celebrate on our doorsteps and how important it is to support our communities.
We are all relieved to be back to work again now that the mini-lockdown has ended – hurrah! We find it hard knowing we can help and not be allowed to do so.
As the owner of WNT and the person with whom the buck stops it is a relief too to be able to feel confident our business can continue to trade. Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday which celebrates and champions small businesses and it feels particularly important this year to recognise the value and the merit in small businesses.
Recently I heard a snippet on the radio* about how well Amazon have done out of lockdown, their (already huge) profits are soaring. They had feedback from a couple of workers who’s hours had become ridiculous – overnight shifts from 6pm-8am – that’s 14hours – where they are in a little cubicle packing up orders that little robots bring to them. I forget the number of packages they did in an hour but it was phenomenal and I do remember that they average 1minute labour per item end to end. 1 minute! What can you do in 1 minute?! The suspicion is that this is building toward doing away with the human input altogether, making these processes so un-personal that a machine can easily take the persons place.
I’ve seen memes that say “every time you buy from a small business an actual person does a little dance”. At WNT we might not dance every time you book, but we certainly smile and I’ve been known to jump up and shake some booty when I see a full diary. This isn’t just because we are getting income, it is because we are fulfilling our purpose – this is what we want to do, this is what we care about, this is how we know we can add value. We are lucky enough to work in a vocation where we get an income for doing what we care about and believe in.
A couple of weeks back I was involved in a brilliant Instagram live session organised by Poppy from Pop, the hairdresser across the road from WNT. She had invited a few local businesses to come and chat about how we were affected by lockdown and share a bit about our business and anything we have on the horizon for Christmas. It was so lovely to see the faces of West Norwood high street and be reminded the richness of what we have outside on our doorstep. There is so much run by lovely people – you can see it here.
In all of these businesses we are real people who are invested deeply in what we do, the services we offer and things we sell. At WNT each of us is a person who has relationships with their clients and who is part of a team, we all know the names of each other’s children, we know when someone is having a challenging time, we know we can call each other when we need some support ourselves. We spend time talking about the experience of working where we do and how to make our environment better for you as clients. We care about all aspects of what we do.
Our society has been damaged by lockdown, this pandemic has sent fear through our communities and made us wary of interaction and physical contact. We need to remember how important society is, how it matters what we do with our lives and how we treat people and are treated ourselves. If we keep investing in companies that treat people like faceless commodities then those companies will gain more and more power. If we can look around us, recognise that the real people working to make us things and offer us services are our neighbours, our friends, the communities for our children and we need to invest in them if we want to hold onto that and continue to have this richness on our doorsteps.
For some great local shopping showing some of this richness, West Norwood Feast is on this Sunday 6th December https://westnorwoodfeast.com/sunday-6-december/
I wish you a happy festive season full of thoughtful shopping and under-overindulging ;-)
* unfortunately no idea what it was other than something on radio 4 so cannot give more context or reference
West Norwood Therapies is in it’s 6th year and with each year has come a different phase in our lifetime. As it’s founder I’ve learned to let it evolve rather than try to control that evolution too much and no phase was less planned than this one! Not much about 2020 was expected and these extraordinary circumstances led us to contract rather than expand and we are now a team of 6 (plus me as a 7th managing things from Scotland) down from the 12 we were at the start of the year. This was a sad transistion and we have all grieved the loss of the team that was and the second lovely studio room we had to let go.
In my experience, if you can stay with the clouds awhile they gradually part to show the sunshine and I feel encouraged and satisfied that this new phase is a sunny one. In these covid-determined times we are feeling how important it is to connect and that emphasises the values that are at the heart of WNT. We are all part of this collaborative collective because we want to work with other skilled professionals, to have a supportive team around us and to be able to work with our clients in a meaningful way.
We had paused on our normal blog sharing, social media posts and promotions as we adjusted to working in an adapted way and we feel like it would be good to start to share our story of how we are now which we will do over the coming months. We will look at what WNT is, who the team are and then explore some of the ways we work using the 5 aspects of wellness Laura explored in her recent blog – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and social.
So we hope you will enjoy following us and getting to know us better either on Instagram or Facebook and we’ll include what we can in our monthly newsletter.
WNT founder Jennie Duck reflects on what it takes to create a therapeutic environment and her pride in a team that has rallied to make the most of a challenging situation - we are so excited to be working again!
Just before lock down I was getting ready to start a massage practice up where I live in Scotland. I was looking forward to getting back to something I love and feel is valuable. Part of what I love to offer is the practical, physical aspect of massage itself – the warmth of touch, the kneading and cajoling to find release in tense muscles, the relaxation that can be found even in strenuous massage.
But there’s far more to it than that.
There’s the space and the environment that we as therapists invite our clients into, the fact of creating this ‘womb’ as a friend of mine calls it where you feel safe, welcome and accepted before we get into much treatment even. The warmth and lighting matters, the space and air matters, the cleanliness matters, the energy we’re giving out matters – there are a lot of things that go on ‘behind the scenes’ to create this environment at West Norwood Therapies.
Then there is our interaction before we actually meet in person – any calls or emails beforehand and then our initial consultation and initial chat for follow up appointments. This is when you get an opportunity to glimpse us a bit, to understand how capable we are of listening and hearing you and tuning into what you are looking for in your visit. This is important as it lays the foundations of trust which will determine how much you relax into the treatment and how our intuition feels its way as we work which can together greatly enhance the effect and value of treatment.
And then the treatment itself – in my case a massage treatment. Here you are literally in my hands! You are trusting me to work on your body and in some instances to really get stuck into areas of long held tensions and stresses that are potentially part of a self-protective armour, while keeping you comfortable and suitably covered. It requires me to be sensitive to this and to trust your body’s responses and my instincts to work where is needed but not beyond that. A lot of trust on a conscious and subconscious level as well as some intimacy in a practitioner-client relationship.
Fast forward 5 months and here we are opening West Norwood Therapies in a different light. We have had to look at our space, carrying out risk assessments and removing a lot of the fabrics and knickknacks that we had put in to make it homely and warm. As we first started to look at things I wondered how on earth we were going to retain the essence of treating people as I’ve described above. How can we make the environment inviting without an electric blanket? How can we create a bond of trust when we’re masked and you can’t see our smiles and more nuanced facial expressions? How can you feel safe enough to relax and let the therapeutic work really happen when there’s a global pandemic around?
Well, I am humbled and impressed at how my colleagues have rallied and worked to make all of this feasible and proud of what we have achieved. We have been open for almost a fortnight and the feedback has been positive both from clients and from practitioners. It is a different way of working, particularly wearing PPE and having to be careful which surfaces are touched and to dutifully clean and disinfect everything between clients, to have an air filter working and take time to air out the room. But the essence of the care, warmth and skill that they are all sharing with you as clients and the connection that they make with you is all there.
I am excited and reassured that we at WNT (minus me in Scotland and the practitioners who sadly couldn’t return due to closure of the studio space) are able to open again and be able to offer our valuable services to the same high standard as before. We know that there have been ripples of trauma touching people in all sorts of ways the past few months and hope that we can be of service to you now.
Blogs from the WNT team. For our blogs from before June 2020 please see individual profile pages - it's a good way to get to know practitioners too.