– An experiment in hybrid unplugging –

Helena with skyby Helena Hornby

One woman. One tent. One field in rural Staffordshire. Ok, it wasn’t just a field. There was a loo, a shower, and a tap too. Campsite, it was a campsite.

This is the story of my impromptu unplugging experience.

I’m one of the many comms people who’ve taken a job further from home since the pandemic. I started my job at Staffordshire County Council mid-2021; pre-Covid I would have considered working 70 miles from Manchester too far to commute daily. Now I make the trip to Staffordshire once or twice a week, either by train or car, and I love the flexibility of hybrid working.

I like going to the office. I enjoy seeing my team, having quick work conversations that seem like an effort over Teams, and those random chats about everything and anything! Oh, and I like the office snacks.

Sometimes I need to schedule my office days back-to-back. When this happens, I usually stay over. It saves travel time (and fuel) and feels like a little holiday! I’ve stayed in a local Travelodge, a Premier Inn, and an Air BnB. But this time, probably because I dilly-dallied with booking, prices were extortionate.

An idea popped into my head – why not camp? After all, the weather was warm and dry, and I’d have a ridiculously short commute the next day.

A quick web search showed a lovely looking site just 10 minutes away and a bargain at £15. Decision made, booked it!

After my busy day at the office, I jumped in the car, set up my little tent, inflated the air bed, lit the stove and cooked dinner. Helena with hotdogEverything tastes better when cooked and eaten outdoors! I went for a stroll into the nearby village for some snacks and to explore, then sat outside my tent reading, listening to the birds, and generally enjoying the gorgeous surroundings until sunset. The next morning, I had a nice lie in, washed in an outdoor (but warm) shower, packed up camp and was at my desk by 9am – far better than up at 5am and a long drive down the M6!

Did I fully unplug? No. I did a video call home to the kids and called my parents. I excitedly messaged the Original Unpluggers WhatsApp group to tell them about my adventure, and I also made a TikTok (I’m experimenting and learning – continuing professional development and all that!). But I did not sit staring at my phone scrolling through social media all evening, which no doubt I’d have done if I’d stayed in a hotel room.

I really felt like I was on holiday. The time alone was peaceful and relaxing, being outside was calming, and doing it all alone gave me a buzz of excitement and sense of achievement. It did me so much good in such a short space of time. If you get the opportunity to escape and unplug for a night, I’d wholeheartedly recommend it.

Helena's tentWe all know the pressure to be ‘always on’ as communications professionals. We also know that we should switch off sometimes, but that’s often easier said than done.

This little camping adventure reminded me of the joy and power that comes from unplugging, being in the moment, and doing something a bit different.

Helena is Campaigns and Internal Communications Manager at Staffordshire County Council as well as being an original unplugger who has been in the Comms Unplugged field every year since we began in 2017. Say hi on Insta.