The Surprising Benefits of Working From Bed—It Might Not Be as Bad as You Think
It’s all about that WFB (work-from-bed) life.
"Working from home" looks wildly different for everyone. It could mean working on the floor surrounded by pets, retreating in the closet during conference calls, and perhaps most tempting, sprawled across the bed in comfortable loungewear.
Almost everyone will tell you that working from bed is not a good idea, but it's pretty hard to resist the appeal of working surrounded by plush pillows, or cozied up inside blankets during a team meeting. Or maybe you don't have a choice—with homeschooled children or cramped living quarters, your bed may just be the only place you can get some peace and solitude.
For a while, I was really committed to not working from my bed at all. When we all went into lockdown last March, I immediately took to my desk to make it the perfect makeshift office. I invested in an ergonomic chair, white board, and even a monitor for when I wanted to work on the big screen.
One day, I caved and decided to move my laptop to my bed—with some ground rules. I wouldn't do it for longer than three hours at a time, and only for writing purposes. I found that when working from bed in spurts, I was more relaxed and my creative juices flowed more freely.
Before you start judging me, I have some of history's most accomplished figures backing me up. Truman Capote told The Paris Review in 1957 that he was a "horizontal author" and couldn't think unless he was laying down. Frida Kahlo was known to paint her best masterpieces from her canopy bed, and even writers like Edith Wharton and William Wordsworth enjoyed drafting prose in their beds.
I know what you're probably thinking at this point: Isn't this absolutely horrible for your back? Not necessarily.
"I'm a physical therapist who works from bed and advises my backache-prone patients to do so occasionally," says Jasmine Marcus, PT, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist and freelance writer in Ithaca, N.Y. "One of the best ways to avoid back injuries is to vary your position frequently, and a great way to do that is by mixing in supine positions, in addition to standing and sitting positions. Working in bed can help you achieve this variety."
Sebastian Kverneland, DC, a chiropractor at the Scandinavian Health Institute in Los Angeles, agrees. "From a chiropractic point of view, we see that the places where people have extraordinarily little back pain are places where people sit a lot on the ground and very little chair sitting. With that same logic, working in your bed is not as bad for your back as you might think."
Working from bed can also help with work-induced anxiety. "Although it's not a long-term solution, a lot of people have derived benefits from the occasional work-from-bed day," says Brian Wind, PhD, clinical psychologist and former co-chair of the American Psychological Association's Advisory Committee on Colleague Assistance. "If work has you feeling anxious, working from your bed can ease your mind, hence triggering creativity. It's a great place to work on projects that feel daunting since you already associate it with relaxation."
And while separating your work and sleep zones is said to be better for sleep, even some sleep experts seem to agree that it can provide a good transition: "Working from bed can be a good solution if you aren't a morning person. If you find it hard to get out of bed and start your day, doing it from bed can provide a productivity boost," says Alex Savy, a certified sleep science coach and founder of Sleeping Ocean. "Having that private space associated with relaxation can help with triggering concentration, especially when there's a spouse or roommates in the picture."
If you are one of the 25 percent of people who has admitted to working from their bed (or the remaining 75 percent who are lying about it), there is a right and wrong way to work this way. Working from bed is a slippery slope that can quickly escalate to a lack of self-control, which makes it even more important to enforce a set of boundaries.
First and foremost, don't do it too often or for too long. I found that spending over five hours working in bed can have the opposite effect of fatigue, backaches, and poor concentration. Make sure you schedule regular breaks to take a walk, get a drink, or work from your desk for a while.
You should also have the right supplementary materials. I invested early in a supportive back pillow and laptop tray to avoid slouching, which I found made all the difference. "To make your bed office as ergonomic as possible, ensure that you have plenty of pillows to prop yourself up, especially along the lower back for lumbar support," says Chris Airey, MD, physician and medical director at Optimale. "Investing in a bed desk will ensure you have a horizontal line between your eye level and laptop monitor, reducing your chances of getting a sore neck and carpal tunnel syndrome."
And of course, as with any working scenario, make sure to maintain a clear work-life distinction. It's easy for that balance to get muddled in bed, so when you clock out, Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, recommends rearranging the space back to "home mode." "Consider ways to mimic the aspects of your past work environment during the day, and when you clock out, be mindful to replace those factors with those which make you feel most comfortable. Transforming the space, like changing the lighting for example, will help create differentiation between work and home activities."
In short, maybe working from bed isn't as bad as all think. "Working from bed offers a break from 9-to-5 desk job anxiety," says Agnes Kowalski, a life and mindset coach in Toronto. "Feeling safe is the first step in Maslow's hierarchy of needs, so if your bed is a safe place for you, by all means make use of that."