November 06, 2022

Article at WSJ

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In Praise of Working in Bed

Everyone agrees that working in bed is a terrible idea—except those who love it. The author says she has done some of her best work half-buried in a pile of pillows.

I’ve tried working at a desk in our open-concept loft. I’ve taken Zoom calls from the dining-room table. I’ve written articles while perched at the little table on our front deck.

But my favorite place to work?

The comfort of my own bed.

I know, I know: Working in bed is a terrible idea. Sleep experts will tell you that bringing work into the bedroom is a recipe for destroying the bedroom as sleep-inducing sanctuary, and that you’ll pay for it with a wicked case of insomnia. Physiotherapists and ergonomicists will tell you that it’s bad for your back, neck and arms, and that you need to be sitting at a proper desk with all your bits and pieces set at the correct angle. And your partner is likely to tell you that bringing a computer into the bedroom is the opposite of restful, let alone sexy.

But I regularly disregard the collective wisdom. Working in bed has been one of my core productivity habits for 35 years, and I have done some of my very best work half-buried in a pile of fluffy pillows. Now I’m ready to peer out from under the covers and share my love of bed-work with the world.

Where it began

My work-in-bed habit happened by accident: While I was in high school, my family did some home renovations that meant there were a few months when I didn’t have a desk or table where I could work. Then I spent my junior year of college living in an apartment where it was too cold to work anywhere except in bed. By the time I moved to a cozier setting, I was hooked.

I know it sounds unprofessional to write corporate reports or take meetings while snuggled in a duvet, but the lack of professionalism is a big part of why working in bed works for me. I mean, bed feels like the antithesis of work: If I’m in bed, then I’m not really working—I’m relaxing! This deep, subconscious association means that no matter how tedious or stressful the task, it immediately feels less tedious or stressful if I tackle it in bed. Even if I’m not working in bed on a given day—typically because I want to use the giant monitor at my actual desk—I’ll relocate to the bedroom if I hit a roadblock, feel discouraged, or just feel like a little bit of pampering would perk me up and give me a fresh burst of energy.

That works because I have made our bed a one-stop shop for everything I find comforting or convenient. I have a tendency to get freezing cold when I’m stressed, so our bed has a heated mattress pad and an extra-large heating pad, as well as a heavyweight duvet. The charging station on my nightstand includes a USB-C cable I can use to charge my laptop, and there are spare headphones in the bedside drawer. I have a supply of aromatherapy oils, lip balm and moisturizer. And I always have a glass water bottle filled and ready to drink. All these little comforts add up to a workspace that feels more like a spa than an office.

Do not disturb

Another great thing about working in bed? The bedroom door. I did not appreciate the singular beauty of the bedroom door (and especially its locking doorknob) until I found myself working at home with the kids around. When I am working at my desk or in the dining room, anyone can walk in and interrupt at any time. (And believe me: They do.) When I am working in bed, I can lock the door, and know that my client call or writing flow won’t get interrupted.

That flow state is another benefit of turning on the heating pad, closing the curtains and slipping under the covers. Far from making me feel sleepy, the cozy cocoon of my own bed helps me tap into a less inhibited, more creative mind-set. I will admit that my creativity has occasionally taken a hit when I look down to realize that I have stained my sheets with an uncapped highlighter or a spilled snack, but I have come to accept ink-stained sheets as a badge of honor, and learned to sleep with crumbs in the bed. In fact, I sleep better than ever: As long as I do my bed-work during the daytime, rather than the evening, our darkened bedroom retains its association with sleep—among other things.

Speaking of which: I’m lucky that my husband doesn’t mind the crumbs, or seeing our love nest turned into a workroom. In fact, he’s not beyond the occasional bed-based conference call himself.

Even if we’re both comfortable treating our bedroom as yet another workspace, I can’t say I’m immune to physical discomforts that can arise from long stretches of working in bed. It’s a bit counterintuitive, but my back actually gets more tired from an afternoon working at my desk than an afternoon working in bed: When I’m at my desk, I stay locked in one (eventually fatiguing) position, whereas when I’m in bed, I’m constantly rearranging myself.

But more than a couple of hours of sitting with my computer on my knees does take a toll on my back, so I keep a wedge pillow and an adjustable lap desk handy; the lap desk is also helpful on video calls, since it avoids the dreaded camera wobble, and raises my computer high enough to hide my headboard (a sure giveaway that I’m conferencing in bed!).

Tracking cooties

The Covid era has made me a bit more germ-conscious, so now I’m vaguely disgusted by the idea of getting into bed and working in clothes I have worn out in the world. If I go out for lunch or sit down anywhere outside the house, I feel like I’m tracking outdoor cooties into the notionally germ-free place where I sleep. So I have a personal rule that I’m not allowed to work in bed unless I first change into clean clothes or pajamas. Conversely, I feel like it’s perfectly OK to sleep in my sweats if I haven’t left the house all day: Once you blur the line between bed and office, you might as well blur the line between day clothes and nightclothes.

And ultimately, blurring lines is what makes working in bed so delightful—and, so productive. We’ve spent the past couple of years adapting to a new world in which home is now the workplace, and in many cases, coping with that by trying to make some part of the house feel like an office.

But why not do the opposite: Why not make our workspaces feel more cozy, homey and personal? The more I let go of what we think of as “professional”—whether that is about changing what I wear between 9 and 5 or the amount of personal information I share with my colleagues—the more I feel like a whole person during the workday, and the less I feel distracted by the sensory irritations of constricting clothes (or a constricting desk). That lets me work more happily, and more efficiently—so that I get to the end of my workday feeling not only accomplished, but recharged.

And that is really what helps me sleep soundly at night.

Dr. Samuel is a technology researcher and co-author of “Remote, Inc.: How to Thrive at Work…Wherever You Are.” Email her at reports@wsj.com.