Could a fake commute be just the thing we need to get out of a work-from-home rut in the new year? One Londoner has been trying it, and it’s had an unexpected effect on her mental health.
One of the best things about working from home is no commute, right? No more packed bus or stressful Tube journey squashed into someone’s else’s armpit, no being forced to listen to second hand James Morrison from someone’s else headphones, or inhaling an unholy amount of a fellow passenger’s Lynx Africa. No one misses that, but what about the more pleasant aspects of traveling to and from work that have ceased now that our kitchen tables are our offices?
For many cyclists, walkers and runners, the daily commute is a chance to exercise and unwind. It provides a precious window of time to prepare for, or shake off the working day. For some of us, after nearly a year of working from home, ruts have formed and new habits have become entrenched. Plus, it’s hard to motivate yourself to get up, shower, make breakfast, get dressed when slouching towards your laptop in your pjs is often the more appealing option.
One young Londoner, Hannah Coorg, 28, took a novel approach after the city went into the Tier 2 level of restrictions in October.
Based in Brixton, and working from home (as Stylist’s Business Development Director in Commerce) since lockdown began in March, Hannah has begun to do what she calls a ‘fake commute’.
Once lockdown begun, like many of us, Hannah, who flat shares with a friend found herself living and working in a small space – with the kitchen table doubling as a desk.
Pre Covid-19 Hannah enjoyed her morning routine – get up, shower, apply make up, get dressed and head off to work. She is also a keen runner so that would often form part of her morning too.
But, after lockdown she found herself feeling “a bit lazy.” Then the idea for a fake commute struck.
“I love to be active. When Covid first started I let myself go a little! I thought I need to do something in the mornings to make me feel awake. I felt I was going in a circle. I was getting up every morning, going to the other room, doing my work, making food, then going to bed. It felt like a cycle of just walking round my house, so I wanted to break that pattern.”
After staying over at her boyfriend’s in east London, Hannah walked from his to hers and realised how much she missed the feeling. “It’s that sense of change of scenery. I know people do just go for walks in the morning but I thought ‘what if I fully think about getting ready for work and get up walk for about 45 mins to an hour? I even pack my bag like I’m leaving for the day!” (This is something that lots of Instagrammers have been bemused by watching Hannah document her commutes on Insta stories).
“In a weird way in puts me a different frame of mind. I do everything I normally do on a commute – I listen to a playlist, I use that time to come into my own and settle before work.”
There is method (and purpose) to the madness. “I set up my desk the night before and I open my laptop so when I come in from my ‘commute’ everything is laid out.”
Like many others who are now WFH veterans, Hannah misses the small talk with colleagues in the morning, but her commute is a way to punctuate the day and add structure – and it’s clearly working for her.
“What I found is that feeling that I have to go out in the morning has been mentally really helpful for me. It’s not technically a change of scenery but it does set me up from the day and I have the rhythm of arriving to work.”
Has her fake commute ever caused her to be late like so many real commuter journeys? “It actually has! And I’m such a punctual person but last week I was ten minutes late.” For once, we can’t blame the trains for that.