No matter how much you like your job, how active you are or how hard it is for you to get out of bed, it is quite likely that some Monday morning, with bleary eyes still in your eyes, you have asked yourself the same question that Not long ago Stephen Hewitt raised.
— Could you work from bed?
This same article, for example, could I write comfortably lying on my mattress?
Between him and most mortals, however, there is an important difference. You, me and the vast majority of mortals would answer that question with a sigh of resignation and give ourselves a few minutes to clear our heads before removing the footboards. Hewitt took a pen and paper and began to find the best way to mess with a computer in a horizontal position.
Not only that. With the design more or less defined, he went a little further: he took a PC, a few planks, nails and rails and made his prototype of his system. home-made. The result, curious of course, has been shared through the Cambridge Clarion website, which includes photographs and a schematic plan with your solution. The document details each and every one of the measures.
It is well tested. Its creator, he explains, has tested it for over a hundred hours.
Objective: work lying down
The system described by Hewitt is made up of a chassis for the keyboard, screen and mouse, three pieces that manage to fit together in such a way that they can be easily handled while lying in bed.
The first, the keyboard, is kept in a vertical position with the help of a support anchored to a structure parallel to the bed frame. It seems like a simple solution, and it is; but that does not mean that it responds to a thoughtful logic and a trial-error process. Hewit explains how the keyboard is the right height so that the arms can rest on the mattress and reach all the keys comfortably. As the user is located just below, another key is that it does not hinder him.
“With this arrangement, the weight of the arms is supported by the elbows resting on the mattress. This is important because having to raise your arms to type is uncomfortable and doesn’t seem feasible for more than a minute or two,” says Hewitt. That there are no obstacles on the sides also makes it easier to get out and lie down without discomfort. “Often there is something I need, like the phone or a document, or some non-work related reason that makes me have to get up.”
The solution for the screen is totally the opposite. If the keyboard is fixed in a vertical position to the mattress, the monitor is “almost horizontal” so that the user can see it with their head resting on the pillow. How aligned it is with the worker’s view is something that can be regulated with the help of one meter long rails. “Can I easily reach and slide towards the head or foot of the bed while I work”, shares the author of the project.
“It’s not very often, but there have been days when, using this arrangement, my neck and back have hurt. The remedy is to adjust the pillow so my head tilts forward more,” Hewit shares of his personal experience. If at any given moment the user gets tired of lying down, looking up at the ceiling, the solution is as simple as disengaging the screen and moving it to the desk. The prototype is designed to ease the maneuver.
“The monitor can be removed and placed back on a desk. I bought a video extension cable and a network cable and on occasion I have lifted the monitor off the rails and put it back on the nearby desk and continued working without even closing an application. This obviously depends on the computer being close enough to the desk,” he notes.
The third element of the equation is the smallest device… and hard to fit: the mouse, for which Hewitt has opted for a horizontal position, similar to that of the screen. For ease of use, the prototype includes a small table located just behind the top of the keyboard.
“When I first tried the mouse in this position I thought it would probably be unusable because I would have to lift my right arm and support its weight; but the position of the mouse has turned out to be comfortable for me during all the normal use of the computer”, relates the creator of the system. By placing the thumb and part of the palm on the edge of the wooden board, the arm hangs comfortably without the user having to strain to keep it straight.
Hewitt recognizes in any case that the mouse is “the weak link in the chain” and work on alternatives. “Since the publication of the article I have tried a new support, a little lower, at the same level as the space bar, already to the right of the keyboard; but my wrist extended to hold the mouse and it was uncomfortable. I have put it back to where it was initially in the article,” she shares. He already has other options in mind to polish the prototype, such as a magnetic mouse equipped with magnets that allow it to be fixed vertically.
Hewitt’s proposal is not in any case the first attempt —and in all probability it will not be the last— to fulfill the dream of working lying down. At the end of 2021 Alex May, with chronic back problems since adolescence, presented “Lying Down Desk”, a somewhat different design, but with the same goal: that people can play with their PCs in a horizontal position.
Not all attempts are homemade. Years ago Altwork launched a peculiar “convertible workstation” designed for people with back or neck problems and somewhat reminiscent of adjustable dentist chairs: it can be used to work sitting down, as in any chair; or reclined, in the position in which we would prepare to have a tooth pulled.
Advantages, of course. Although, as Hewitt admits, working lying down has a great handicap that is difficult to solve: “I can’t drink my coffee lying down. And it’s important :)”.
Images | Stephen Hewitt
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism