A woman working from home

Working from home: struggling with the monotony of WFH? Here’s how to mix things up

Posted by for Mental Health

Here’s how to break up your daily routine if you’re finding working from home monotonous, according to an expert.

If you were able to return to the office when restrictions lifted last year, you might be finding the return to working from home a little monotonous.

While working from home offers plenty of benefits – especially for those who are unable to work in a traditional office environment – for many, the isolation and monotony of staying at home all day can make the experience feel like a little bit of a drag.

We’ve all experienced boredom in the past, but this kind of sustained monotony can be detrimental to your mental health. It’s one of the reasons why some people experience feelings of lethargy and low motivation while working from home – without the stimulation of ‘normal’ life to keep you going, it’s not unusual to feel a bit ‘meh’.  

“We all need a certain amount of stimulation – although too much can make some of us feel stressed as we all have personal tolerances – so like Goldilocks, we need to find that sweet spot in the middle where energy and motivation are optimal,” explains chartered psychologist and author Dr Meg Arroll.

“Due to Covid restrictions and the fact that many of us are living and working in the same space, it can be quite tricky to reproduce just the right amount of physiological arousal for peak performance,” she adds.

However, just because it’s tricky to access the same levels of stimulation as you might have when you worked in an office, doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. Within Covid-19 restrictions, there are a number of things you can do to break up the day and make your current arrangement seem more exciting (many of which don’t involve more screen time).

To find out more, we asked Dr Arroll to share her top tips for coping with monotony while working from home. Here’s what she had to say.  

Rotate your workspace

Depending on the amount of space at your disposal, try to rotate where you’re working throughout the home so your day feels more varied.

“Moving isn’t always possible with everyone in the house also trying to work, but even changing seats at the home-office-come-kitchen-table will give the mind a different view,” Dr Arroll explains.

You might also consider moving your desk to sit by a window if you have one – not only will it give you something to look at other than your computer screen, but the natural light exposure you’ll get has the power to boost mood, concentration and energy levels. 

A woman working from home
Working in different areas of the house will help to keep things feeling fresh and new.

Read backwards

This is a great one to try when you feel yourself zoning out – simply take a chunk of text (like an email you’ve been meaning to read) and read the whole thing backwards.

It might not make much sense at first, but the mental effort you’ll have to put in to putting together each sentence should be enough to wake your brain up a little.

Schedule phone calls

Talking to your friends is an easy way to break up a day. Arroll recommends ditching video calls (“we’re all rather sick of them”) and opting for a phone call during coffee breaks.

“Even if you don’t feel like it, the social interaction will help moderate feelings of boredom,” she explains.  

Because it’s hard to know what to talk about when every day is the same, why not come up with a set of random questions for you and your friend to ask each other? Not only will it help to take your mind off of work for a couple of minutes, but it’s an excuse to have a laugh.

Move your body

It may sound obvious, but getting up and moving your body is an easy way to break up the day and ensure you’re spending time away from your screen.

If you’re bored of walking, you could always mix things up, too.

“Set an alarm if you need to as a reminder to get up, run up and down the stairs, do some jumping jacks or dance around the kitchen,” Dr Arroll says. “Whatever you need to get your heart and mind pumping.” 

A woman dancing in her kitchen
Introducing a 'commute' period into your day will allow you to enjoy some 'me time'.

Create a WFH ‘commute’

We’re not necessarily talking about going for a walk or driving around the block – your ‘commute’ could be any ritual that helps you to create a divide between work and personal time, such as blasting your favourite song at full volume or following a skin care routine.

“Be creative here to make the ritual enjoyable and fun,” Dr Arroll recommends.

“This will spark energy in the morning and allow the mind to switch off in the evening.” 

If adapting to the new world of work is taking its toll on your mental health, you’re not alone. From the isolation of being separated from colleagues while working from home and the stress of relying on technology to struggles with concentration, confidence and setting boundaries, there are a number of reasons why you might find this time particularly challenging.

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

Stylist’s Work It Out series aims to give you the tools and resources you need to take care of your mental health at work. From completing your Work 5 A Day to dealing with issues including anxiety, loneliness and stress, we’ll be exploring all aspects of work-related wellbeing.

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.