Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Five ways to bring a dash of escapism to your daily work routine, and lift that sluggish desk-bound feeling


If the poll on this story is anything to go by, a lot of Stylist readers suffer from workplace apathy.

Even the most enthusiastic among us will have days when we feel hemmed in and trapped by our office environment. 

The sea of grey decor, the listless hum of the air-con and musty fumes of the office microwave conspire to create the perfect storm of oppression.

We feel lethargic and run-down, and dream of jumping on the next plane to Rio to escape it all. Only of course, we can't (or we don't really want to, not forever more). 

For these moments, we've pulled together five escape methods that will help to lift the drudgery of your daily work routine.

These things don't involve time, money or moving countries - some don't even require you to move from your desk.

But they WILL work to provide a bit of escapist therapy, for whenever that next office dip descends...

Spend five minutes doodling


Doodling may have a brainless rep, but it's actually a great creative outlet for minds stifled by mundane routine. 

Think of a blank page as a playground for the brain; an arena for your subconscious to wander and spontaneously express itself.

By scrawling a series of stars, zigzags or what have you on a notepad, you're easing the tension that goes hand-in-hand with office life.

Not only that, but research suggests that the procrastination bound up in doodling allows us to hone our creative and decision-making skills

In her book The Doodle Revolution, author Sunni Brown argues that far from being a distraction technique, doodling is powerful (and undervalued) way of igniting the mind.

"Doodling is thinking in disguise," she says. "It encourages awareness of the big picture and helps us to break away from habitual thinking patterns."

Douse your desk in plant life


Plants are the antithesis of an average office.

They're a splash of green in an ocean of grey, a giver of clean air amid those stuffy microwave fumes and a reminder of nature when you're cooped up indoors.

So it stands to reason that surrounding yourself with them at work will bring a sense of ease and escapism (figuratively, if not literally).

But it's not just aesthetics; a host of studies have attested to the cathartic benefits of plants in the workplace. 

One 2010 survey found the presence of office plants eased tension and anxiety among employees by 37% and feelings of dejection by 58%. 

As well as reducing stress, plants work to reduce noise (by altering reverberation times) and alleviate symptoms of "sick building syndrome". They also pamper to Biophilia, defined as humanity's innate need for nature.

Head outdoors for playtime

hop scotch

We all know the benefits of taking regular, short breaks at work - preferably away from your desk and outdoors (a concept that forms the heart of Stylist's reclaim your lunch break campaign). 

Less well-documented are the advantages of creative play for adults

In order to really escape that feeling of desk-bound lethargy, you could try shaking things up by heading outside for play time - and even better, bring your team with you. 

It sounds ridiculous but our minds and bodies could be sustained by 'playtime' as grown-ups, just as much as when we were children.

"No matter how motivated your people may be, there will be times when things get sluggish and everyone is in dire need of an energy boost," says Peter Economy, co-author of Managing For Dummies. 

 "The solution? Get outside and play. And when I say get outside and play, I mean really get outside and play! There are all sorts of kids' games that are fun for adults, and that have the added benefits of building teamwork and energy. Three-leg races, egg tosses, pin the tail on the donkey, piñatas, Frisbee golf, shave the balloon, and water-balloon tosses are just a few of the possibilities.

"The key is to make sure that the games you choose aren't too strenuous, and that everyone has a good time."

Launch a Friday afternoon 'art hour'


To truly get away from it all and engender some big ideas thinking, follow the lead of the folks over at city service app FourSquare.

Every Friday at 5pm, members of their team - including engineers, designers and researchers - step away from their desks to take part in a mandatory hour-long 'art time'.

This is less Blue Peter than it sounds, and more about cutting off the grind for a spot of lateral thinking.

Each week, someone different sets a creative proposal and the team spends the hour executing it and presenting their ideas.

The task can be anything; the more abstract or wacky, the better. So far, the group have worked on everything from turning urinals into carnival games to creating an object that helps people deal with sorrow.

 "It shakes out the cobwebs," says Brendan Lewis, Foursquare's corporate communications director. "Everyone’s so intense."

If you aren't able to mobilise a whole team, try getting one or two other colleagues on-board informally and put aside 15 minutes each week to set each other proposals that will help to flex your brain muscles in a different way. 

Cultivate the discomfort that comes from taking risks


There's no better way of combating work fatigue than with the rush of adrenaline that comes with taking a risk.

You can bring a sense of escapism to your work every day simply by making a conscious effort to venture into unfamiliar territory. 

By seeking out the projects and experiences that make you uncomfortable, you are giving yourself fuel for creativity and growth, and simultaneously guarding against apathy.

Don't like difficult conversations? Jump in with both feet, and make them your dive-off point for making real progress.  Hate public speaking? Make it a point to make your voice heard, and keep yourself alert and engaged with the jolt of fear that brings.

"It's easy to get stuck in a routine, especially at work (more so if you've been doing the same job for a while)," says king of entrepreneurs, Richard Branson. "It is important to try things that might not work, and then improvise solutions along the way... No matter what industry you work in, the nature of business is change, and so while you can prepare for every possibility, some new, unexpected circumstance is likely to thwart you. The only thing that's meaningful about such setbacks is whether you bounce back."

Seize the opportunity to challenge yourself and step outside your comfort zone, and you will reap the escapist rewards. 

Photos: ThinkStock, Words: Anna Brech



Six women who've traded the 9-5 office haul for a life less ordinary


Six words and phrases to avoid in the workplace


Why and how to change career in your early thirties


A day in the work life of Dorothy Apio, a midwife based in Uganda


Illustrator Millie Marotta on the power of therapeutic colouring


How to use mindfulness to reduce stress in just 15 minutes



Our kind of cauldron: darkly delicious Halloween cocktail recipes

Jacked-up Negronis and chilli-laced concoctions

by Amy Swales
25 Oct 2016

“Why we need to remove the term Essex Girl from the dictionary”

It's time to reclaim the term once and for all

by Sarah Biddlecombe
25 Oct 2016

Revealed: the 20 most fashionable baby names in France

These melodic French baby names are très bien

by Kayleigh Dray
25 Oct 2016

Small fibs could turn you into a full-blown liar, study finds

“What a tangled web we weave...”

by Anna Pollitt
25 Oct 2016

Bake Off’s Mary Berry confirmed for brand-new cooking show

And it’s hitting our screens in time for a very Berry Christmas…

by Kayleigh Dray
25 Oct 2016

This 'Very British Problems' Twitter account is all of us

"Best weekend activity: a really nice sitdown"

by Sarah Biddlecombe
24 Oct 2016

13 Going on 30 is the latest film to get a musical makeover

by Amy Swales
24 Oct 2016

This streaming service is so boring it will send you to sleep

Forget Netflix and chill

by Harriet Hall
24 Oct 2016

Poldark slammed by women’s rights campaigners as “romanticising rape”

“It’s worse than if it had been a straightforward rape scene”

by Kayleigh Dray
24 Oct 2016

The selfie vs. the group photo: which actually makes us happier?

Time for an Instagram break?

by Moya Crockett
24 Oct 2016