Weekly Editorial

Bed Rotting in the Era of Remote Work

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Editor-in-chief, OI Publications • April 22, 2024

The Insider_Weekly_4.22.2024_editorial

I’ve tried to avoid the topic of return to work as much as possible in this column, mainly because there is still too much confusion over the issue and nobody really knows how each individual company is handling hybrid work vs. fully in-office or fully remote work.

But I ran across a new term that I thought you might enjoy: bed rotting.

I discovered it through Sleep Doctor, an online site for sleep health, improvement and education, though it’s been around for at least a year. The report investigates the prevalence of bed rotting among remote and hybrid workers. The report also offers insight into how bed rotting impacts workers’ sleep and mental health.

What is bed rotting? Like a lot of things, the trend of bed rotting began on TikTok and involves staying in bed for extended periods of time, not to sleep, but to do passive activities. Bed rotting is when a person stays in bed for an entire day without engaging in daily activities and chores. Many who partake in bed rotting commonly spend their time on their computer or smartphone.

According to the Sleep Doctor survey, 55% of remote/hybrid workers say they bed rot during the work day weekly; on days they bed rot, 4 in 10 workers spend 3+ hours of the work day in bed; and 39% of workers were influenced to bed rot by others or social media.

“Hanging out in bed for extended periods of time is not a great idea,” said Dr. Michael Breus, clinical psychologist and sleep medicine expert at Sleep Doctor. “When people are lying in bed for extended periods of time, their brain doesn’t know if it should be awake or sleeping. So, as a general guideline, and there’s plenty of data to back this up, you really want to only be in bed when you’re getting your seven to nine hours of sleep.”

If you are paying that employee’s salary, bed rotting certainly does not help your business either.

Bed rotting isn’t the only example of questionable behavior among remote workers. A simple search found 628 examples of “mouse jigglers” that are used to keep that tiny green light in Teams from going off (and showing that the remote worker is not actually at their keyboard). Products like this are designed to move a mouse and are promoted by the sellers as “undetectable.” And if you are thinking, “My employees would never do something like that,” consider that the product linked in the last sentence has sold more than 10,000+ in the last month alone.

I’ve not hidden the fact that I think the office is the best, most productive place for people to work. And yes, I’ve read studies that show hybrid workers are just as productive as those in the office (though the “research” tends to come from tech companies or others who will benefit from remote work).

People have asked why I feel so strongly about this topic.

First, I don’t want to see our cities die. A recent New York Times article outlined a real danger of the so-called “doom loop” coming true. The doom loop goes something like this: workers don’t return to downtown offices, companies shed space, commercial real estate companies fail causing banks holding their loans to fail.

Second (and most important), I truly believe offices and working together is how we do our best, most innovative work. It is hard to refute studies that show workers are happier with hybrid work schedules. But it is also hard to deny that we don’t know what we are losing by not being together.

What important, society-changing product was never thought of because the people who would have come up with it never did (because they were never together)? What new products were never developed? We will simply never know.

Bed rotting and mouse jigglers are funny in their absurdity. But there’s nothing funny about losing innovation that we never had because we weren’t together.

Like what you see? Share with a friend.

Join 15K+ industry professionals who receive The Insider each week