Should my home office be in my bedroom? Science says no.

5 Mins read

For those of us that have switched to working from home, the temptation is real to locate our home office in our bedroom. Who doesn’t want to roll out of bed and straight onto a Zoom call? You can reduce your commute time to 0.5 seconds! But the science behind productivity tells us that this might not be the best idea.

Research has shown that reserving the bedroom specifically for sleep and sex is a critical component in being able to enjoy a good night’s sleep. Keeping a space specifically for sleep, separate from your workspace can ensure that you associate work with only a specific part of your home or apartment. This will also help you work less and enjoy a more healthy and ergonomic work environment.

Why working out of your bedroom is a terrible idea

Lack of professionalism

First, rarely does working out of your bedroom show off the professionalism that you want to convey. Sure, some people have big bedrooms, but most will find themselves highlighting their unmade bed in a Zoom call. Having a dedicated desk space in a more neutral location with a more professional look will go a long way in conveying to your employer and your clients that you are indeed in a work zone.

Chances of “mishaps”

We’ve all been there. Forgetting to mute ourselves when blurting out an expletive. Having our cat walk across our keyboard on a sales call. But the biggest embarrassment lies in the bedroom for obvious reasons. If you have a significant other, locating your office in your bedroom is just begging to have a situation where your coworkers see too much of your partner… Nothing gets a conference call going like seeing someone walk by wearing boxer shorts only! Just take this possibility completely off the table by relocating your office to somewhere other than where you sleep and get ready in the morning.

Being courteous to housemates

It’s not just about having someone show up in your meeting in the nude… If you have a significant other, it isn’t fair to locate your office in the place they sleep. What if they want to sleep in? What if your online meetings are particularly noisy. Keep the bedroom for sleep.

Working from home etiquette

If you are working in the bedroom, chances are you will have more moments when either you or the space are not presentable. This means that you won’t turn your video on for conference calls which have been proven to be a bad idea for teamwork. This also speaks to the idea of dressing appropriately for work. The temptation to show up to a call in your pajamas is just too strong when you work out of your bedroom.

In the morning, put on real work clothes and go to a specific space for your office that is outside of the bedroom so you don’t violate these working from home etiquette rules.

One of my favorite depictions of the dangers of working from home by theoatmeal.com

Because science!

Research has shown that you should keep your bedroom space exclusively for sleep and sex. This helps you create an environment that is not associated with any of the stresses from work. I don’t want to sleep in the same space as where I had a work confrontation a few hours earlier. Making that separation has proven to allow you to get to sleep better and quicker.

Working in your bedroom can also take a toll on your psychology in the long term. If you work in the same space you sleep, you may start to get the sense that you are never really leaving work. We already have a lot of this feeling when working from home, why make it worse? Again, that physical separation helps train your brain to associate a specific environment with work. When you leave that space, you feel like you left work. I even recommend shutting the door on your office completely and keep that space somewhat off-limits outside of work hours (if you have the luxury of a dedicated space for your home office).

Spending too much time in your bed actually may also be physically unhealthy. A study by Amerisleep showed that after just one week, pillows and bedding have around three to five million bacteria colonies. Do you want to be working in that all day? Also, if you are working out of your bed, you sure aren’t washing that bedding so this can make the problem worse.

Ergonomically, working in your bed just isn’t ideal. You simply don’t have the support or spine alignment when sitting on your bed for long periods of time. Your screen also tends to be too low in your field of view, exacerbating the ergonomic issues associated with a soft bed.

What if I just don’t have the space?

Many are facing a situation where the bedroom is literally the only space in their home to set up a home office. If you are in this situation here are a few things to try:

  • Separate your room into a work and sleep portion. Consider even buying a room divider to physically separate your office area from the rest of the room.
  • Don’t work in your bed (see above)
  • Always properly get ready for work like you are going to the office. Have a shower, change out of your pajamas, do your hair. This will psychologically make a separation from sleep time to work time.
  • Buy a good desk, chair, and chair mat. Having this gear will go a long way in making your space more professional and functional, even if it is next to your bed.
  • Make your bed! Show that you aren’t a slob on video chat.
  • Spruce up your desk with professional looking items. Make it look like you are in a dedicated home office.
  • Inform your significant other that you will be using this space for your office. Come to an agreement around the timing of getting ready in the morning so you don’t run into any awkward scenarios.
  • Work from a coffee shop or somewhere else from time to time. Switch it up so you don’t always associate work with the bedroom.
  • Start a good bedtime routine. Transform your sleeping space to a serene environment a couple of hours before bed. Remove any flashing lights on office equipment like laptops from the space completely before bed.

What is the ideal place for a home office?

If not in the bedroom, then where should I locate my home office? We recommend finding a dedicated room in your home that has a door that can be closed. Having a window that receives some sunlight can be a real bonus for those of use that thrive on the outdoors. Most importantly, try to find a space that has adequate physical separation from the bedroom and bathroom. These are meant to be private areas of your home and blurring the lines between professional and personal is a recipe for disaster in the age of video calls.

I would recommend a spot with minimum distractions, free of a lot of foot traffic if you have roommates or kids. While basements may seem like a good solution, they can sometimes be too dark and without adequate airflow. If you’re going to be working 8 hours a day for the foreseeable future in this space, consider something that is not subterranean.

Lastly, make it a bit of a hike to get to the kitchen. Snacking can become an issue for remote workers. Make it a bit harder to grab that bag of Jalapeno Cheetos when you’re at work.

Conclusion: The bed is not your office

Should my home office be in my bedroom? Short answer: No. Overall, if you can avoid it, don’t make your bedroom your home office. In the long run, you will run into issues around sleep, the ability to stop work on time, and general productivity issues around being in a multi-use space. There is a reason why the most productive home workers have dedicated offices at home. The separate environment emulates what it is like to actually go to the office and can allow you to “switch off” work mode and more easily transition to “chill mode” in the evening. And believe me, you need chill mode more now than ever.

Home Werk

Try to move your desk into a dedicated space in the home, ideally where you can shut the door. If you don’t have the room and must use your bedroom as your office, try some of the tips above to physically create some barriers in the room. And change out of your pajamas!

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I have worked from a distance for many years with colleagues overseas but only recently got a taste of full-blown 100% working from home. And I love it! I can stay way more focused and sneak in the odd cat pet…
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