Struggling to stay motivated while working from home? Simply moving to a different location could be the answer you’re looking for.
When the UK first went into lockdown on 23 March, the idea of spending some time working from home seemed like a pretty good deal. Although I knew I’d miss the camaraderie of my colleagues and the buzz of the office environment, I was grateful to be able to get up that little bit later and skip out on my hour long commute.
Flash forward three months later, and the novelty of working from home has long worn off. Sure, I still appreciate not having to commute on a packed train every day. But despite getting more sleep than I did pre-coronavirus – and having all my home comforts within reach of my laptop – my energy and motivation levels have taken a massive blow.
That was, until last week. In a last ditch attempt to try and restore some of the motivation I’ve lost since working from home, I decided to move my whole set-up upstairs, to a desk in my bedroom. And you know what? It made all the difference.
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Of course, I know I’m incredibly lucky to be able to move to an entirely different room of my house – for many people who are renting in big cities such as London, having a second room/extra space to work in isn’t a reality. But switching up your perspective – even if that means rotating your desk 90 degrees or facing in a different direction – could still make a difference.
Up until this point, I’d been working downstairs at the kitchen table. I’ve moved home to live with my parents during lockdown, so it felt nice to be surrounded by the regular hustle and bustle of my family going about their days while I worked. But as the weeks dragged on and the novelty of working from home wore off, being surrounded by people not working was making it harder for me to concentrate. As my energy levels dissipated and I began to feel less motivated, it became harder to switch on ‘work Lauren’ and focus.
Being upstairs means I’ve given myself the chance to focus better – and working in a space which is separate from my daily ‘living’ space has meant I’m finding it a lot easier to switch off after work. My bedroom also happens to be home to lots of my most treasured possessions, which help to foster a sense of creativity: on my desk alone, I’ve got a pile of magazines, a few books and a couple of my favourite candles. All in all, I’ve been feeling more motivated, focused and – perhaps most importantly – less stressed.
Indeed, I’m not the only one who has found that moving location – whether that’s to a completely different room or simply sitting in a different spot at the same table – has helped them to feel more motivated and focused while working from home.
“I have my own office at home and I really like working in it. However, since the lockdown I noticed I wasn’t enjoying the space as much,” explains Soma Ghosh, a careers expert at The Career Happiness Mentor.
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“As a result, I have now changed how I work at home to feel less enclosed. My living room is bigger and this helps me feel more creative and also that location motivates me to focus more, especially when I am writing or doing client work. This has helped me feel less enclosed in my office.
“In terms of productivity I have found by splitting my time between my home office and living room I feel more like I am still engaging in the work I love doing but it doesn’t feel so constrained.”
Joanne O’Connell, a careers expert and founder of EmploymentSolicitor.com, has also found that creating dedicated spaces for working from home has helped her to feel more productive – and that switching between spaces throughout the day helps her to stay on top of her work.
“If you have parts of your home that are sunnier/warmer at different times of the day, you can switch your work places around to stay with the natural light for a boost. It can also help to switch locations depending on what you’re working on,” she explains. “For example, if I’m doing planning/strategy work, I sit at the kitchen table or on the sofa with huge pieces of paper. If I’m writing articles, I sit at my desk. Switching around can boost your creativity and can be better than sitting at the same place all day, particularly if your work involves different skills and ideas.”
It’s clear that the space we work in can have a big impact on our productivity, especially when it’s so easy to let the lines between our work and personal lives slip when we’re working from home. But is there a psychological reason for this?
“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,” explains Charlotte Armitage, a media and business psychologist.
“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.”
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It can be hard to feel like we’re really in ‘work mode’ when we’re working in the same place we use to relax, so setting aside a dedicated working from home space – and moving if that location doesn’t promote productivity – is a great idea if you’re struggling to find motivation.
At the end of the day, it’s OK if you still haven’t found out what works best for you when it comes to working from home. Finding out the right balance is all about experimentation – so don’t beat yourself up if something doesn’t work out straight away.
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.