Time to switch off: our time at Comms Unplugged

Some of the spottypack stepped away from the office earlier this month to join fellow communications professionals at Comms Unplugged, an annual event designed to offer the industry time, space and opportunity to step back from everyday life and focus on wellbeing and learning. Account Director Zoe Gaffney is here to tell you all about it.

“Aaaand relax.” Those were the two words Emily, Maddy, Rachel and I uttered to ourselves as we shut our laptops and headed to the beautiful Dorset coast. A minute later, the realisation dawned upon us that this meant we had to go against our natural instincts as comms professionals and switch off our phones. Panic alert…!

Our anxiety of being without technology — dubbed as ‘NOMOPHOBIA’ by health experts — was only momentary, though. As we stepped into the campsite, we were met with blue skies, fresh air, and most importantly, friendly faces. We knew we were in for two days of fun and relaxation.

Enjoying the great outdoors

First up on the agenda was setting up camp. It’s fair to say our ability levels for putting up tents varied and there were a few bent pegs, but it was a fun bonding activity, nonetheless. Next, we headed to the main tent, where personalised goodie bags full of yummy snacks, bamboo pens, and event information were handed to us.

Organisers Georgia, Sally and Darren welcomed us to the event, starting off with some insight into why Comms Unplugged was born: the PR industry is one of the busiest and most stressed in the UK, and wellbeing is vital to being a good communicator. This was followed by their five steps to wellbeing, which included things like walking in nature, staying active and connecting with others. After an inspiring introduction, it was time to begin our activities!

Kickstarting Comms Unplugged was a talk from leading trainer Chris Croft who discussed the ten steps to happiness. One of my favourite tips was around making time to nurture your creativity beyond work. As comms professionals, we spend much of our working lives seeking out the ‘big idea’, but our creativity can become fatigued if we only use it when working to a deadline. It made me feel encouraged to pay more attention to what makes me feel creative outside the office: cooking. You never know — the next chilli I concoct could plant the seed for spottydog’s next award-winning campaign!

The other activities we took part in included arts and crafts, guided meditation in the forest and motivational talks. Dr Youmna Mouhamad, solo entrepreneur with a PhD in engineering, led a great session around ‘unlocking your potential’, emphasising the importance of digging deep to surface hidden desires and talents. Another highlight was the ‘Vent Tent’ — a place to air out your grumbles then knock out a solution. It was equal parts cathartic and amusing!

The importance of wellbeing

But, more than anything, it’s the atmosphere that Comms Unplugged conjured up that made it so special. It’s not hard to see why industry folks return every year. It’s the little moments that make you realise what it’s truly about — meeting likeminded people and sharing stories, the collective enjoyment after the first bite of delicious campsite food, the gorgeous greenery surrounding you.

It makes you stop for a moment, diverting your attention away from the abundance of emails and LinkedIn notifications, and think about what makes you feel happy and calm. It’s the feeling of just ‘being’ — something that isn’t so easy in the fast-paced, ever-changing world of comms.

As Comms Unplugged drew to a close, we knew that our busy lives were beckoning us back. But, we knew that we could return with a new perspective and a realisation that we needed to look after our own wellbeing first in order to be the best communicators we could be.

We’re lucky that, at spottydog, mental health is always prioritised in the workplace. Scheduled ‘Walk and Talks, team lunches, a dog-friendly office policy and on-demand resources from CIPR are all activities that encourage us to switch off and look after our mental wellbeing.

And thanks to Comms Unplugged, there are certainly some new learnings I’ll take to use in both my work and home life. One of which will be to take an airbed with me next time I go camping!

Find out more about Comms Unplugged here.

Have another sneak peek at what we got up to over on our Instagram. (Yes, we did have to take a cheeky reel!)

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