– When you really need a break…it’s time to unplug –

Michelle McVeighBy Michelle McVeigh

After a few years of slowly adding more and more comms to my PA role, we made it official by adding “Communications Lead” to my job title in November 2019. I had all these grand plans for the division I worked in and then, well, we all know what happened next!  It took me until my early 30’s to know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and there’s nothing like being thrown in the deep end and starting your first official NHS comms role in a global pandemic.

I was late to the comms game so I hadn’t had any formal training and I was using my knowledge and experience I’d gained over the years of picking up comms projects. I enrolled in the CIPR Internal Communications Specialist Certificate in March 2020 which really boosted my confidence in my abilities and confirmed that communications really was where I was meant to be. I have ADHD and being in a job I am passionate about and keeps me on my toes is so important for me. I also find it’s a great way to challenge the untrue stereotype that people with ADHD are bad communicators, something I hope to talk about more in the future.

When January came around and we were well into the second wave, I was redeployed to help with Trust wide Covid comms, particularly for the vaccine. It was intense and very stressful, but I also feel so privileged to have been a part of the effort to vaccinate and protect our staff and colleagues in our borough. I’m now in the central communications team and still patiently waiting for “normal” to return, but enjoying every second nonetheless and motivated to use comms to make a difference in my organisation.

Living in a small flat in London, I don’t have a whole lot of space and being able to separate work life and home life while working from home has been really tough. Switching to almost entirely virtual meetings has been a challenge for me, it has helped me come up with more creative focussing techniques but I jump at the chance to meet in person and connect with people. I’ve always been pretty ‘plugged in’ but these last 18 months it feels like my eyes haven’t left a screen. Even trying to unwind with friends and family during lockdown involves looking at a screen. Luckily, London isn’t too short on green spaces so I have been able to get out into nature occasionally and I’ve been taking the opportunity to improve my photography. I have my cat to keep me company when I’m working from home as well, although he’s not the most helpful of colleagues!

I stumbled across CommsUnplugged earlier this year and thought it sounded like such a great idea, although I was bit apprehensive about completely unplugging as I will admit I am very reliant on my phone (plus I’m not much of a camper). It was after an especially busy few weeks and I was thinking to myself “I really need a break” that I saw CIPR Health were offering some places and I took it as a sign. I was thrilled to be offered a place and genuinely cannot wait to meet some comms colleagues, take a real break, switch off my racing mind, and really focus on my own wellbeing while getting the opportunity to learn too – what more could you ask for?

Thank you so much to CIPR Health and CommsUnplugged for inviting me to unplug, I can’t wait to meet everyone!

Michelle is Head of Engagement and Communication at Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. She is the lucky winner of a ticket via our sponsor CIPR Health and will be a first-time unplugger in 2021.