Sleep . . sex . . sickness. These are the only three things that should take place in bed. Working is not one of them.
I admit that I’ve been working from bed (WFB) for years, and I pulled many all-nighters as a student. My worst one was when I was a doctoral student. I had to finish a 25-page qualitative research report. With only ten pages done, I had less than 24 hours to complete the paper and hand it in. Going to sleep that night wasn’t an option.
I thought that if I had to stay up, I was going to be comfortable. I decided to get in my jammies, have some caffeine and snacks on hand, and finish the paper from bed. With the TV on mute, I got the damn thing done, despite fighting off the urge the shut my eyes.
I managed to get an A on the paper, but it was the worst night of all my years as a student. I was on autopilot the next day, and I had insomnia for a few days afterward.
The allure of WFB can be strong. It’s tempting to roll out of bed, do the bathroom basics, and then crawl back in with your laptop. In a survey of 1,000 Americans, 72 percent reported working from bed during the pandemic, and 10 percent said they spent most or all of their work week in bed.
Unfortunately, WFB can have adverse physical and psychological effects. Here’s why I’m breaking the habit.
It’s Bad Ergonomics
Ergonomics is the “study of people at work,” according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Ergonomics looks at how awkward postures, vibrations, forces, and repetitive motions cause injuries. The idea is to reduce or eliminate these forces to avoid bodily harm and help people work more productively.
WFB for extended periods is bad for the body. Lounging on a bed while propped up with pillows makes it hard to keep the back straight, and it wears on your posture. Also, it causes strain on the hips, back, and neck. Changing up your seating position and posture might relieve some of the pressure.
It Messes with Your Sleep
Your bed should be the place where you get to wind down and relax. However, if you’re sitting in bed with your laptop open and papers are strewn around you, your brain starts to associate your bed with work and other non-sleep activities. Instead of learning to wind down, you’re training your brain for wakefulness.
Since the pandemic’s inception and the consequent uptick in WFB, it’s no wonder that so many people have developed coronasomnia or the rise in sleep disorders that coincide with the COVID crisis. Glowing screens and stress about getting sick can bring about the negative aspects of working from home, including lack of sleep.
It Reduces Your Productivity
It can be hard to get much done when WFB causes back strain and the strong desire to nod off. When your bed working starts to interfere with your sleep, you run the risk of insomnia, which has been shown to harm productivity. Doing work in a space that’s designed for sleep can make for more restless nights.
If You Must Work from Bed
Over time, factors like genetics, work habits, and environmental conditions will determine the extent to which WFB causes a person harm. Nevertheless, some people have limited options when it comes to working at home. If that’s you and you’ve decided that your bed is the best place for you to work, then consider the following guidelines.
Change out of your pajamas. I won’t put on a business suit to get into the work mindset. I dress comfortably as long as it doesn’t make me feel like I should be getting ready for bed. Keeping your work and sleep clothes separate can help create a separation line between rest time and work time.
Sit upright. Try not to sit slouched for extended periods of time. If you have to WFB, at least sit in an upright position as though you’re in a chair. Use your pillows for support, not for lounging. Make sure your spine is in a neutral position.
Relieve the pressure points. Sitting in bed for a long time will eventually create pressure points, leading to pain and stiffness. Put pillows under your knees, or try wedge pillows to avoid to putting stress on your lower back. Make sure your screen is at eye level so that you’re not straining your neck or eyes. Place a small pillow behind your lower back to create lumbar support. Also, don’t lay on your stomach to read or type; it’s bad on your elbows and neck.
Move often. Shift your positions frequently and stretch. Get out of bed to move around every 45 minutes or so. Use an ironing board or some other piece of furniture to create a standing workstation.
No matter how or where you work, always be aware of the effects of your working conditions on your body. The younger you are, the less likely you’ll feel the adverse effects right away. But bad habits have a way of catching up eventually. Unless you live in a studio apartment where a bed is the only piece of furniture you have, try to avoid working from bed. If all you have is a kitchen table with at least one chair, opt for that instead.