Faculty of Engineering and Design Department Admin Away day: How to deal with stress and cuddling chickens!

Posted in: Faculty of Engineering and Design, Staff event, Staff experiences

Author: Julia Mitchell -

On Thursday 23rd January the Admin teams in Mech Eng, ACE, Chem Eng and Elec Eng all eagerly gathered together in 6 East to begin our first ever dedicated team day. The day began with a round of bespoke hot refreshments; pre-orders had been placed to accommodate all tastes and were waiting upon arrival reflecting the relaxed approach to the day. The aim of the day was to get us all talking (not hard in a totally female environment!) and thinking about how we can deal with stress better on a day to day basis.

After a quick catch up, we settled down to an informal presentation from Kirsten. The topic for the session was ‘how to handle stress at work’. Our first task was to write down on (coloured!) post it notes what made us ‘happy’, ‘what we would rather doing’ and ‘what stressed us at work’. Simple one-word answers that were then stuck up on the plain walls of 3.17, decorating a blank canvas with our words of wisdom. This got us into a moving and sticking frenzy trying to make sure that we got the right categories as we had all promptly forgotten which was which!

Ladies sitting around a table and looking at notes in a meeting room.
Sharing our thoughts on colourful post it!

The ‘happys’ reflected the people that we work with, the environment we work in, the post office on campus (useful to have extended opening hours) and AVDs, whereas ‘what we would rather be doing’ took us out of our work environment completely including social activities such as dog walking and  fitness classes.

However, when we really thought about the ‘stresses’ that we faced on a daily basis a variety of issues came to light. Constant interruptions, unrealistic timescales and taking minutes raised our collective blood pressures amongst others.

We then split into groups of three (and more post its!) to engage in role plays to reflect common situations. This gave us a good opportunity to listen to others’ approach on different situations- learning from what words they used and how they handled tensions. The Emotional Literacy Toolkit was a vast dictionary of words to describe feelings and really made us think about how we actually felt in certain situations. Recognising how we reacted and felt was a good way to reflect and question our own behaviour, whether we are the bringer or receiver of stress. Our thought processes were going wild with the abundance of fabulous words to embrace. This made us appreciate other people’s jobs and how maybe we could alleviate these pressures by reflecting on our own behaviours.

The relaxed and informal atmosphere of the training session allowed everyone to have a voice and didn’t really feel like work even though we were addressing important issues that affect us all in some way.

The morning finished with food for thought, although biscuits and fruit had been thoughtfully provided, all of that brain power now required proper feeding! We donned wellies and walking boots, coats and hats and prepared to go in convoy to Bath City Farm. It was a grey mizzley day, but nothing could dampen our spirits as we arrived for lunch and animal interaction. Taking care not to slip on the steep and very muddy paths we made our way to a big shed (keeping our coats on) to await the promised luncheon. After some negotiation we persuaded the Farm staff that we were all very hungry and would like lunch sooner rather than later. Promptly steaming bowls of soup arrived, which were quickly devoured and thankfully the wood burner was lit which kept us from freezing on a cold Winter’s afternoon. Then a huge chocolate cake arrived (made by the Farm volunteers) and was dished out in gargantuan size portions. With our tummies full it was time to brave the cold and venture out to see the animals.

A woman leading a black and white pony on a hill.
Claire is clearly having so much fun!
A black and brown-coloured goat standing on the back of a lady.
Someone give this goat a piggyback ride!

Bath City Farm is situated on a hillside in an urban setting with far reaching views over Bath. From this elevated position we could just about make out our beloved University building high up in the clouds on the horizon. The Farm is a local charity that works with the community on a variety of projects; providing education training, therapeutic activities, supporting people to develop new skills and confidence, engaging local people with nature and farming and hosting group activities such as ours.

Surrounded by hanging toast in the trees, from a recent Wassail event, we carefully made our way down the hillside to the ponies. Claire and Dilys were the horse whisperers of the group and eagerly led two Shetland ponies up to the top where we all took turns in brushing them and getting mud out of their coats.

Ladies grooming a brown pony in a farm.
The ponies were incredibly patient and put up with our inexpert grooming.
A delightful lady wearing blue beanie and scarf is holding a black-coloured chicken in her arms
Cuddling with chicken is always a good idea.

Next on the list of activities was goat feeding. We slid back down the hill again to the goat pen where several inquisitive goats were trying to escape, but we all made it in one at a time. Stood in a line we rummaged into a bucket of porridge oat type food and bent down to feed the hungry goats. If you made the mistake of standing up to feed them, they would literally climb up onto you desperate for food! They were very friendly and surprisingly gentle just nibbling their lunch out of our hands.

Next on the tour was a visit to the piggies! The naughty piglets had managed to burrow through to another pen and had to be rounded up (thankfully not by us). This was followed by more feeding but not out of our hands this time! Scoops of pig pellets were aimed at the pigs who devoured them as fast as we could throw them.

Our last animal encounter was chicken cuddling. The most feared activity by most of the group. Some of us pinned ourselves to the edge of the coop whilst others wavered outside. A few brave souls scooped up the chickens (under supervision of course) and cuddled away to their heart’s content.

A lady with a purple jacket leans on the fence to feed the pigs with pig pellets.
Visiting and feeding the piggies!
A few pigs with black patches are feeding on pig pellets on the ground.
Time to dig in!

After a quick visit to the sheep we all reconvened for a thorough handwashing in nice (surprisingly) hot water! This concluded our visit and we made our way back to the car park to change out of wellies and have an early finish.

Feeling renewed and invigorated after our escape from the office we all agreed that the day had been a success, relaxed and informal whilst allowing us to reflect on how we deal with things in our daily working lives; acknowledging that we work better as a team, sharing experiences.


Posted in: Faculty of Engineering and Design, Staff event, Staff experiences