Tucked in and switched on
Wired awake … the last place of refuge has become part of an omnipresent metaphysical workplace. Photo: Tim Hale
Working from your bed sounds rather appealing, like the very definition of sybaritism. The very definition, that is, should this work involve perusing a novella, with toast and lapsang to hand, a la Downton Abbey's Lady Mary. Light should be streaming through the shutters and birds singing against the soft splash of a scented bath being drawn.
Alas, the reality is more akin to a hollow-eyed couple ignoring each other while typing into several different keyboards at 1.57am.
Those labour-saving devices that were supposed to liberate us from the office have, in fact, given rise to an omnipresent metaphysical workplace in what used to be our last great private refuge.
According to a survey by Infosecurity Europe, more than a third of the people surveyed, or their partners, now toil in bed, with 5 per cent of them confessing to slogging away there for two hours a day. This distressing trend appears to have originated in the land of the free, as the city that never sleeps lives up to its name, with eight out of 10 young New York professionals working from their beds.
This bad collective habit has spawned a generation of regrettable accessories, from laptop cushions to beds with various sockets. The American brand Reverie boasts a bed with built-in wi-fi that can be adjusted using an iPhone, while E.S. Kluft & Co has launched a two-metre by two-metre bed described as ''a gathering place, a workplace, a comfort zone for a couple'' (sick bucket not included).
Yet the appetite for such atrocities is very much in evidence. We charge our devices next to the bed, devour our bedtime books on them, and deploy them as alarm clocks. Small wonder then that they begin to take precedence over the individuals lying forlornly next to us.
''I spent years resisting a bedroom TV,'' a friend confides. ''But it was futile because we now have in its place iPhones, BlackBerrys, laptops and iPads apiece, meaning neither of us can resist checking emails, tweeting, or reading online.
''We barely speak, let alone enjoy any other sort of intercourse. I find myself sending my husband links if I want to share something with him, rather than turning and telling him. The recession has only made our obsession worse. Both of us are haggard with insomnia. It's a curse.''
For some, this is simply a fresh spin on bed-based work as exhibited by Winston Churchill, propped up in his all-in-one Turnbull & Asser siren suit. Other distinguished bed-bound operators include French kings of the Ancien Regime in the lit de justice, in which they appeared before parliament; the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who wrote on his thighs when out of paper; the tubercular Robert Louis Stevenson; Marcel Proust; a declining, Coca-Cola-fuelled F. Scott Fitzgerald; Mark Twain; and Mae West, who remarked, ''Everybody knows I do my best work in bed.''
However, their endeavours didn't bleep for one's attention in the middle of the night, emit eBay ''found search'' chimes, or give off melatonin- (and thus sleep-) suppressing beams.
My own run-ins with bed graft escalated when I took up an at-large editorship with Australian Harper's Bazaar. Given that its working day gets into swing at midnight British time, I would find myself replying either intoxicated, unconscious, or a non-career-advancing combination of the two, at 4am. This led to ''intuitive'' responses to pressing editorial matters that, left unmediated, might have sunk a lesser publication.
I once interviewed Dr Rubin Naiman, of the University of Arizona's centre for integrative medicine, who has toured with Aerosmith as their sleep adviser. In beguilingly soporific tones, he instructed: ''Limit your exposure to artificial light from your devices, including TVs, the blue component of which restricts melatonin. And you can invest in glasses that eliminate blue light. But why not just switch off?''
Amen. It is vanity to imagine that the world can't turn without us.