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As corona virus spreads and greater social distancing measures are taken, more of us are starting to work from home. Having space for a home office in your house is a rarity, so it makes sense that we’re creating makeshift work spaces from our sofas, floors, and kitchen counters. But there’s one place you really shouldn’t work from: your bed. We know, we know, it’s all too tempting to stay in your pjs (perhaps putting on a proper top for a Zoom meeting) and remain bundled up in blankets.Working from your bed is a terrible idea, though. It wrecks your mental health, your work, your back, your sleep, and your hygiene. The main issue emerges from how your brain makes associations between location and how it should behave. When you’re no longer in your usual office, which your brain associates with getting work done, it’s easy for your focus to sway and productivity to dip. When you then work from spaces that are meant for resting, the line between work and non-work becomes more muddled – and both sides suffer. Ensuring that you implement and maintain strict boundaries is going to be key in allowing you to maintain your mental health while working from home. There are a number of reasons why working from your bed is a bad idea, not only is it bad for your physical health and posture, it is unhelpful from a psychological perspective. If you work in every room of your house, you will start to associate your home with work, making it very difficult to switch off from work and creating unhealthy imbalance in your work-life routine. Ideally, you need a space that is specifically for work that you can close the door on when you want to switch off on an evening.
It’s key to keep clear boundaries between work and rest. If you work from your bed, you will blur the boundary between sleep and work, which may result in experiencing sleep difficulties. Your bed needs to remain a place that is associated with calm activities and sleeping. Even a small amount of time working from your bed or in your pyjamas will have a negative impact on your sleep – and make it harder to stay awake during working hours. Save your bed for sleeping! For a restful night’s sleep, you want your brain to associate your bed with sleep and intimacy, and nothing else. If you start to merge the boundaries between work and rest, one will intrude into the other… You’ll be less productive at work (and more likely to nod off), and yet when it comes to switching off the light, thoughts about work are more likely to persist. Along with the mental effects of working from your bed, it’s also worth noting how unhygienic it is to do everything from your bed.
Humans shed around 15 million skin cells each night and this alone can leave your bed sheets crawling with more than 5,000,000 types of bacteria after one week of not washing. Working from your bed could so much as double this, increasing the health risks massively. Researchers asked volunteers to swab their beds for four weeks without washing them. They found that within one week of use, pillowcases and bed sheets had more bacteria than you’d find on a toilet seat – 17 times that, in fact. Research reveals even after one week of no washing, bed sheets and mattresses can become infested with harmful bacteria. We know we shouldn’t be working in bed. What should we be doing to create a decent working space? First off, if you absolutely must work from your bed, please, please give your bed sheets and pillowcases a regular wash, and throw back your duvet and sheets each morning to allow moisture – which bacteria thrives on – to dry out. Ideally, though, you should try to create a space where only work – not sleep or relaxation – happens, even if it’s just a corner of your room. Try to set up near a window, to get plenty of light. The best work environments have plenty of daylight – sunlight is a natural mood booster, so it can help to keep your energy levels up if you work next to a window. Exposure to natural light during the day, especially in the morning, also helps to fully wake up your body clock, so that by night time, your body is ready for sleep. One study found that workers who sat next to a window had 46 minutes more sleep than those who worked away from daylight. You want a space where you can sit or stand at a desk, or at least maintain a straight back against your sofa, with proper support for your laptop, which needs to be at the correct height so you’re not hunching over. And even if space is limited, try your hardest to separate work from rest. If you are isolating yourself in a studio and everything is in one room, it’s still worth trying to create boundaries between work and rest spaces. This could mean keeping a different bedcover / cushions on the bed to disguise it during the day, changing the position of the bed at night, and changing the lighting – so that it’s bright by day, but with dim light from lamps at night.
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