Especially when you’re new to working remotely from home, it’s tempting to roll over, open up your laptop, and start in on the workday. Or at night, just hammer away until you nod off. Overall, it’s not good to work in bed – not good for your mind and body.
For 3 years, when I first went remote, I would wake up and drowsily reach for my laptop, do 2 or 3 hours of work in bed, propped awkwardly on one elbow or balancing the laptop on my knees.
Finally, I either started feeling dizzy or hungry, or nature called. I never connected this with my disrupted sleep patterns and the chronic physical pain on my left side. Working in bed hurt me mentally and physically.
You shouldn’t be working from your bed because it:
- Can disrupt your sleep both in terms of length and quality
- Can harm your posture and musculoskeletal health
- Hurts your productivity
- Presents hygiene problems including mold, bacteria, and overall cleanliness
First, understand the issues, then go about fixing them. There are some tricks to adjust your patterns and thriving at remote work without working in bed.
Working in bed affects your sleep
Working in bed affects your sleep. Sleep matters, a lot, and that’s likely not news to you, but it’s not just about being sleepy the next day.
According to Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, insufficient and poor-quality sleep impacts us in ways including:
- Affects judgment and mood
- Affects our ability to learn
- Increases errors at the workplace
- Increases the risk of accidents
- Increases the risk of diabetes and other diseases
The key to good sleep is making your bed a sleep-inducing environment. Again, Harvard’s Sleep Medicine website recommends using the bed only for sleep and sex. Keep work material out of your bedroom. It strengthens your brain’s link between the bedroom and sleep.
Screen time before bed also damages your quality of sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Using electronic devices before bed delays your body’s internal clock. It makes it more difficult to fall asleep. Using these devices before turning in:
- Delays the onset of REM sleep
- Reduces the amount of REM sleep
- Makes you less alert in the morning
Over time, these effects can add up to a significant, chronic sleep deficiency.
Working in bed affects your productivity
According to The New York Times, productivity depends not only on how you work, but also where you work.
Sitting at the desk doesn’t make you a productivity machine. It impacts a factor crucial towards productivity: energy. Your work environment can either increase or deplete your energy.
When you sit down on your bed, are you pumped with energy or do you feel like giving in and taking a nap? Do you begin in an upright posture, and slowly find yourself sliding down your pillow?
The bed is a trigger for rest and sleep. It is difficult to work sitting on your bed when your mind is receiving cues that are on the opposite end of the spectrum.
James Clear, author of the bestselling book Atomic Habits, says in an article that your environment often shapes your behavior. But you keep working, playing, and living in the same environment. It’s no wonder that it can be difficult to build new habits.
Your mind is trained to associate your bed with sleep. Forcing yourself to work from the bed will result in mental resistance and decreased productivity.
Working in bed harms your posture and can give you bodily pain
Beds are designed for sleep, not work. So to use your computer in bed, you have to:
- prop yourself on one elbow,
- raise your back with the mattress or pillows
- do some weird balancing act with the computer on your bent knees
- sit up in bed
- [insert creative and uncomfortable solution here].
I was so freaking undisciplined I would even sometimes type with one hand. Anything to not get out of bed.
I couldn’t find much written on it, but position 1, propping yourself on an elbow bends your spine at an unnatural sideward angle. It puts pressure on your shoulder and trapezius muscles, and puts a continual bend on your flank and abdominal muscles. Have you ever had side pain after a long-haul flight? Same thing there. I was so dumb I thought I had a chronic problem and I saw an orthopedist about it. He was at a loss for ideas.
Even when we sit up in bed, we’re like going to be cross-legged, just like we’re back in kindergarten. Our body naturally hunches over, and the mattress normally doesn’t provide sufficient support for our tailbone..
James Clear, in an article on productivity, writes: “Sit up or stand up.”
What happens when you sit hunched over? Your chest and diaphragm press against the bottom of your lungs. This hurts your ability to breathe easily and deeply.
Sit up straight or stand up.
You’ll be able to breathe easier and more fully. Your brain will get more oxygen and you’ll be able to concentrate better.
According to the American Posture Institute, posture also alters the resting state of the brain. Imaging the brain shows that upright versus lying down posture increases alertness within the brain. If you hold your body upright in your chair with proper posture you’ll feel more energized, versus slumping in your bed with little energy.
Thus, our posture also impacts how well we’re doing at work.
Effects on hygiene when you work from your bed
Is your bed a clean workspace?
This might make you squirm, but you might not be the only living organism on your bed. According to CNN, here’s what else is lurking in your bed:
- Mold and fungi
- Dust mite feces
- Your pet’s sweat or hair
You spend a third of your life in bed, “rolling around in and inhaling all kinds of nasty particles.”
It is not only unclean to work in your bed, but it can also be dangerous. Consider the spread of coronavirus globally. Along with social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands; we also need to keep our environment as clean as possible.
Is it worth it to work from your bed, if it is making you sick, not safe?
Overall, working from the bed takes a hit both on your sleep and your productivity. Next time you’re tempted to work from your bed, think again. Do you want another thing weighing you down during this pandemic?
How to prevent yourself from working in your bed
So, how do you prevent yourself calling your bed your “home office” when willpower isn’t doing the trick?
You know that working from your bed affects your sleep and your productivity negatively. You’ll have to take some steps to prevent this from happening.
Try these approaches:
- Draw clear lines between rest and work: Find a separate workspace instead of your bed. A simple desk or a kitchen table will do. If you’re really cramped for space, find a small corner table that’s designated for work, and work only.
- Make it attractive: According to James Clear’s Atomic Habits, one of the ways of making a habit stick is to make it attractive. If you want to make working on your desk a habit, give yourself some incentive. A potted plant, or a decorated mug, anything that makes your workspace livelier will do the trick.
- Reward yourself: This is another way to make your work habit habit permanent. As you switch to a desk from the bed, give yourself a small reward after each work
session. A snack or an episode of your favorite TV show can work as a reward.
Not working from your bed will improve both your productivity as well as your quality of sleep. You’ll be better rested, more energized, and healthier. Now get up and get to work!