Are You in Your Bed Rot Era? Pursuing Baseline at Work Could Help

Published in
10 min readFeb 16, 2024


For when enough really is enough

Photo courtesy of Hao Pan

By now, you’ve likely heard of “bed rotting,” the self-care trend where people spend an entire day horizontal, scrolling on their phones, binging TV shows, and eating. The goal is to do nothing-zero productivity whatsoever. On social media, people both glamorize it-hidden beneath cozy blankets, they snack respectfully in their neutral, tidy bedrooms-and keep it very real, one user commenting, “My depressive episodes are getting rebranded,” on a video of a sleep scientist defending the trend.

To onlookers like myself, bed rotting seems perfectly okay… maybe. I’m an enthusiastic advocate of balancing life stresses with intentional rest (thank you, Nap Ministry), but there are huge caveats to such a thing being called “self-care,” like how often you’ve been doing it and whatever is at the root of your reason to rot. Taylor Swift spending an entire day in bed recovering after a series of performances seems totally valid. Consistently shutting down to cope with your environment, however, seems like cause for concern.

Here’s the thing about the latter: This time last year a survey from Slack reported that burnout is on the rise globally, most significantly in the U.S., where 43 percent of middle managers reported feeling burnt out. That feeling is a function of overwork-a combination of paid work and life being too overwhelming to handle. Amid years of multifaceted global crises and the throws of hustle culture, the world and, for many people, the workplace feel like a giant weighted blanket inviting us to rot beneath it. In order to pull back the covers, something has got to change.

Enter the idea of baseline. In therapy speak, a psychological baseline is how people behave most often-whatever is “normal” for them in any given circumstance. It’s a reference point we can compare to when people experience highs (elation! joy! passion!) and lows (depression). Returning to this imaginary line of normalcy is actually the end game, because maintaining highs is unrealistic, and lows, undesirable. But if you, like so many others, find yourself rotting in bed after a stressful workday or week more often than not, it might be time for a hard reset in order to find your way back to regular operating levels amid our drastically changed environment-starting with how you approach paid work.

Read more: How to Live a ‘Soft Life’ Without Quitting Your Job

The importance of finding baseline at work

In relation to work, finding “baseline” equals contentedness and peace about where your time and energy are being allocated. “Finding your ‘baseline’ at work is crucial,” says Kimberley Tyler-Smith, an executive at the career tech platform, Resume Worded. “It’s not about being overjoyed or deeply unhappy in your job. Instead, think of it as being centered and stable, especially when the world outside is anything but.”

In pursuit of a dream job or career, it’s easy to overlook the importance of being okay with where you are, and that push for more, more, more can eventually have you regularly binging Love Island from dawn to dusk.

“This baseline approach counters the relentless pursuit of perfection, which can often lead to burnout,” Tyler-Smith says. “It’s about finding a healthy balance, where your job is sustainable and you’re at peace. In a world that’s always pushing for more, sometimes the best thing to do is find your footing and stay grounded. That’s the real key to balancing work with life’s ups and downs.”

More than that, a baseline approach is about figuring out what it takes to build a sustainable life and career amid whatever noise is amplifying the day’s headlines. Career and leadership coach Phoebe Gavin recommends nurturing your identity outside of work in order to assess the right balance between work and life for you.

“Pursuing baseline requires setting yourself up to choose things other than work,” Gavin says. “Explore and invest in your own identity outside of work-delve into hobbies, relationships, causes, communities, and the like so you’re clear in your own mind about what your non-work priorities are and why you want to choose them over work.”

If that sounds like coasting on the job to you, then you’ve understood correctly. Exploring the types of off-the-clock support you need in order to lead a fulfilling and mentally healthy life requires you to expend energy that otherwise would have gone into your workday. Gavin says that’s okay.

“Whenever the other priorities, the other aspects of your life need more of your attention and are a higher priority in terms of your life goals, then those things should be a higher priority in terms of your time and energy,” Gavin says. “Because work is the thing that takes up the most of our time and energy on a day-to-day basis, it has to come from that space.”

To begin shifting your energy stores, you can pull back at your current job, if possible, or seek something new altogether. “I call them placeholder jobs,” Gavin says. “You find a job that doesn’t really demand too much of you, and go ahead and commit to being in this placeholder job for a year or two and being really rigid about your boundaries so that you can maintain the energy and the time necessary to explore the rest of your life. It might be that you do an easy job so that you can go to grad school in the evenings or that you do an easy job so that you can finish your novel or you do an easy job so that you can focus on rest and recover from your burnout. Placeholder jobs are great for that.

“At the end of the day, the company is paying you to perform a particular set of tasks or to drive a particular outcome. It’s the culture, American work culture, Western work culture, that leads us to think that we have to go above and beyond, and if we’re not going above and beyond, we’re not doing enough. It is okay to just do enough.”

“We absorb so many damaging cultural messages about what work is, what work should be, who we are, or who we should be as professionals. It can be very challenging to identify what is our inner voice, our true voice, and what is all of the noise that’s been created by the culture, our culture of origin or family of origin, that encourages us to make decisions that are not in the interest of our future selves.”

The challenges of pursuing baseline at work

Maybe “baseline” feels reminiscent of 2023’s “quiet quitting” trend, which saw thousands of people drawing firm boundaries around the time, energy, and effort they put into their jobs, delivering only the minimum requirements in order to get by. The concepts are very similar in their defiance of “the grind” and prioritization of personal wellbeing.

However, pursuing baseline isn’t a social media trend. It’s a strategic choice to stop growing in your career for the time being; it’s meant to be intentional and temporary. You’re creating an era in your life for exploration.

“We absorb so many damaging cultural messages about what work is, what work should be, who we are, or who we should be as professionals,” Gavin says. “It can be very challenging to identify what is our inner voice, our true voice, and what is all of the noise that’s been created by the culture, our culture of origin or family of origin, that encourages us to make decisions that are not in the interest of our future selves. That kind of introspection, paired with the sort of tactical bits, really helps folks move in a career direction that is sustainable and fulfilling for them versus just getting the next job or just getting the raise.”

As such, regardless of whether your job in this self-discovery phase is a placeholder, it’s critical that you remain cognizant of how you’re showing up in the workplace and whether you’ve allowed yourself to languish too long in the in-between. “Professional and financial stagnancy is the key danger when pursuing baseline,” Gavin says. “Stay aware of how your performance is perceived, what skills will help you move forward, and maintain a strong professional network so you can access new opportunities easily when you’re ready to make your next career move.”

Learn to be your own best advocate, too, because baseline is not traditionally honored or celebrated in the workplace. “You being at baseline is not going to be welcomingly embraced by capitalism,” Gavin adds. She recommends protecting yourself in three key ways:

  • Ask questions when you’re assigned tasks, expectations, or when you’re negotiating.
  • Have the best relationship you can with your direct supervisor. The better you understand how you’re being perceived, the better you can adjust in the event the perception is negative.
  • Have regular conversations with your supervisor about what you’re up to, what you’re doing, and what results are being driven. Most people overestimate how much their manager sees or knows about their daily work output.

“Work will always take everything you give it,” Gavin says. “Work will always ask for more. Developing your skills around setting boundaries, negotiating, and managing conflict is essential. You will have to say no frequently, and it will be uncomfortable. But it’s much easier to push through the discomfort if you have these skills.”

Try it: 2 steps for pursuing baseline at work

So, how do you let go at work in order to free up space to build your life? Hanne Wulp, a leadership trainer and executive coach, offers two steps for shifting your mindset and achieving a baseline approach to work.

1. Clarify what’s important to you

Taking new steps of any kind requires self-reflection and maybe even a little soul searching. If you’re thinking to yourself, I know I feel unsettled and/or burned out, but I don’t know where to direct my energy to find fulfillment and focus again, then it’s time to look inward.

“Get clear on what is important to you, what you want to achieve, where you want to be in your career, what you are good at, what you like, etc.,” Wulp says. “This will render the feeling of clarity, peace, and alignment with you being on your path.”

Take the process slow, both reflecting on your current routine and trying new activities that pique your interest. After each task, ask yourself, “ ‘What did I like about it? How did I feel while I was doing that? Do I want to do more? Am I excited about the next one?’” Wulp says. “It’s important to weigh the pros and cons. Reflect on, ‘why am I doing this?’ and ‘is to worth doing?’

Then ask yourself whether the task is extra, meaning it could change or be eliminated, or required in order for you to maintain your basic needs. “There’s this reality that we’re not always going to be excited about what we’re doing, so then it’s important to focus on the task at hand and feel fulfilled that you got it done.”

Whether a fun or a functional activity, Wulp says it helps to clue into your senses as you move through your day. What are you seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching, and how is that affecting you? How is your heartbeat? Your anxiety? What could change, like the time of day a task is completed or the length of a task, to make each of the experiences more positive for you. In other words, how can you set yourself up for success? Journaling can be an excellent step in pulling all of these thoughts together.

“I constantly and continuously monitor how I’m feeling, which actions I’m taking, if I’m sitting down, if I’m tired, if I’m feeling anxious,” Wulp says. “I continually check in about what I’m going to do. Make a list of things you can achieve in the circumstances.”

2. Practice staying centered and grounded

Pursuing a baseline requires participants to stop overachieving, something our culture does not endorse. “Step two is hugely important, but not stressed enough,” Wulp says. “Even during step one, you’ll need to practice step two: You need to be okay with-make enough peace with-where you currently are, to free up enough space in your mind to do some goal-oriented thinking. You have to temporarily give up some internal fights, and not worry about the culture you find yourself in, the political environment, or the world’s problems. And really, what you perceive other people to think.”

Wulp recommends self-compassion. “I try not to beat up on myself as much,” she says of her own journey. “If I didn’t do something. I didn’t handle something well. I was sad. I was anxious. I accept and forgive myself. I wasn’t at my best. That helps me to move on.”

“What we as people struggle with the most is getting stuck-holding onto something that was not what we were hoping for. Something negative. Those are the stories we tell each other. Those are the dramas we see in stories.”

Continually find baseline by reminding yourself that you have value, are worthy, and you deserve this time to build a life that inspires you, even if the world is in shambles, your boss is toxic, or you want to spend every Saturday in bed. You deserve more.

Read more: 148 Positive Daily Affirmations for Women Who Need a Boost

About the author

Beth Castle is on staff at InHerSight, where she writes about workplace rights, diversity and inclusion, allyship, and feminism. Her bylines include Fast Company, Charlotte magazine, The Charlotte Observer, SouthPark magazine, Southbound magazine, and Atlanta magazine. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

About the sources

Kimberley Tyler-Smith is an executive at the career tech platform, Resume Worded. A Stanford MBA grad, she left the corporate world to pursue something with more impact in the education/career space. Now as a VP at Resume Worded, she helps 1m+ job seekers every month advance their careers.

Hanne Wulp, founder of Communication Wise, takes a gentle yet honest approach to coaching and training. She helps leaders address communication barriers/ conflicts, explore options, and overcome challenges. As an ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) specialist, Hanne believes that by adding insights and skills to her clients’ existing perspectives and repertoires, they can move forward with clearer perspectives and stronger relationships. Hanne’s experience as an attorney, mediator, and facilitator has given her a deep understanding of conflict and how to resolve it effectively. She is passionate about helping leaders create healthy and strong relationships, and with that, the results they are looking for.

Phoebe Gavin is a career and leadership coach. She helps established and aspiring leaders get radical clarity, set courageous goals, and develop powerful systems for progress. Her approach combines elements from psychology, neuroscience, design, and behavioral economics to create effective, customized engines for professional achievement and leadership excellence.

Phoebe has over a decade of media experience with a long time practice of coaching, mentorship, and sponsorship in the newsrooms she’s supported. She has helped hundreds of professionals achieve their career goals and drive better business results in her coaching practice, which she formalized in 2019. She’s the author of The Workplace Guide to Time Management: Best Practices to Maximize Productivity.

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