A woman remote working from a coffee shop

How switching up your work environment can help you to feel more motivated

Posted by for Mental Health

On the hunt for a quick and easy way to boost your motivation levels while working from home? Switching up your work environment for a coffee shop or friend’s house could be the solution you’re looking for.

Although you might have the odd trip to the office pencilled in over the next couple of weeks, if you’re reading this, chances are that you’re going to be working from home for the foreseeable future.

While some may find this set-up to be no problem, if you’re one of the many people who has found remote working to be tough on your mental health, it’s only natural to feel a little hesitant about the idea of working from home for a while longer. 

However, there are some ways to make this next chapter of remote working a little easier – thanks, in no small way, to the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Whereas before working from home literally meant working in the same space you eat, sleep and relax, thanks to the latest step in the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, you now have the option to work from a variety of different indoor spots, including cafés, restaurants and, if you’re feeling extra fancy, hotels.

You could also visit a friend’s house (or vice versa) and create your very own office environment, courtesy of new rules which permit indoor socialising with up to six people (or two households) – just make sure to check out the recommendations in your local area first and follow all necessary precautions.

While it may not seem like that big of a change to switch up where you’re working from – after all, you might think, you’re still doing the same work from the same laptop, no matter where you are – it can actually make a big difference to your overall wellbeing.  

Indeed, not only will being around people in some capacity help to alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation, but the simple act of changing your environment can actually have an impact on your overall mental health, too.

“There are many factors that can influence your mood and productivity and one that people don’t really think about is their working environment,” explains Celine Erorh, assistant psychologist, mental health advocate and founder of Celutions UK, a platform dedicated to teaching people how to take care of their mental health.

“The working environment you create for yourself ultimately dictates how focused you can be, as this is where decisions will be made.” 

A woman working in a coffee shop during the coronavirus pandemic
Switching working from home for the 'ambient' environment of a coffee shop can offer a whole host of benefits for your productivity and mood.

According to Erorh, one of the main reasons mixing up your remote working environment is so good for you is because it helps to “unblur the lines” between your work and home lives, which have likely become increasingly intertwined during the course of the pandemic.

“Solely working from home during the pandemic blurred the lines for many people as they were literally ‘taking work home’,” Erorh says. 

“Mixing [home working] with other locations allows for people to ‘switch off’ or ‘unplug’ from work – this boundary allows for more self-care and time to spend doing things for yourself, ultimately improving your mental wellbeing.” 

What Erorh is saying makes a lot of sense. Not only, as she points out, does working outside the home force you to pack up your work stuff and ‘commute’ home after you’re done for the day (and therefore makes it harder to work excessive overtime long into the evening), but it also makes it easier to switch off at the end of the day – something which is key to reducing stress levels and achieving a healthy work/life balance. 

On top of contributing to better mental wellbeing, working from a different environment can also impact your work performance, too.

For one, studies have shown that working from an environment in which there’s lots of ‘ambient noise’ – such as a coffee shop – can contribute to better cognitive flexibility – aka, your ability to make decisions and wrap your head around different concepts.

And, according to Erorh, switching up your work environment regularly could also boost your productivity levels.

“Working in the same place for a prolonged period of time can decrease focus levels and changing this around regularly can help; taking breaks from your regular working spot helps you to get your clarity back,” Erorh explains. “A sign you may need to change your working environment is if you notice you are getting distracted more frequently.

“Making slight changes in your working environment will make a big difference in your willingness to work as changes in scenery can be beneficial for stimulation and can boost creativity.” 

Even if you don’t feel quite ready to get back to indoor socialising just yet, you can still reap the benefits of mixing up your work environment while staying at home.

Indeed, as psychologist Charlotte Armitage told Stylist: “We quickly build psychological associations with the visual cues in the environment around us. As a consequence of this, working in the same environment facilitates the development of a mindset that is associated with productivity, hence why it is important to create a space that is specifically for work when working from home.

“However, working from the same environment for sustained periods of time can lead to complacency because the visual cues lose their impact as we become desensitised to them through familiarity. With this in mind, you may find that moving to a new workspace within your home will rejuvenate your attitude and approach towards work, enhance your productivity levels and improve your sense of wellbeing.” 

So, there you have it. Even if working from home isn’t your ideal long-term set-up, there are ways to make it a little bit easier and make the most of restrictions easing at the same time. 

If working from home is taking its toll on your mental health, you’re not alone. From the isolation of being separated from colleagues and the stress of relying on technology to the threat of redundancy and the anxiety of applying for a new job, there are a number of reasons why you might find this time particularly challenging.

So, what can you do about it? We’ve got a plan.

Our Work It Out campaign, supported by Mind, aims to give you the tools and resources you need to take care of your mental health while you’re stuck at home. From completing your Work 5 A Day to dealing with issues including anxiety, loneliness and stress, we’ll be exploring all aspects of WFH wellbeing.

For more information, including how to complete your Work 5 A Day, you can check out our guide to getting started.

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.