How To Ergonmically Use a Laptop

Laptops have revolutionized our working environments by allowing us to bring them wherever we’d like. Like mobile phones, laptops have transformed work outside the office too (not to mention personal computing on the go). But laptops bring one major pitfall: poor ergonomics.

When considering laptops, ergonomics is not usually the first thing that pops into people’s minds (if it pops up at all). Heck, many people couldn’t even explain what ergonomics is, or why it’s so important for productivity and health. If you are one of those people wondering, “what are laptop stands for and how can you use them to your benefit?” you are about to find out!

But, by adjusting your personal habits and supporting laptop stand accessories, you might see a world of difference in your comfort, productivity, and even long-term health.

We’ll explain. 

What Is Ergonomics?

Before we jump into how to ergonomically use a laptop, let’s first make sure we’re on the same page. Broadly speaking, ergonomics (or, as it’s sometimes called, “human factors”) is the scientific study of people at work, as well as the process of designing or arranging workplaces, systems, and products in order to fit the individuals who use them. 

Ergonomics combines multiple scientific disciplines, including anatomy, physiology, psychology, engineering, and statistics to optimize designs for potential users’ strengths, while de-emphasizing their weaknesses. Ergonomics have numerous proven benefits, including:

  • Increased comfort
  • Decreased risk of pain
  • Better long-term health, especially in musculoskeletal disorders
  • Improved productivity

Headaches, fatigue, and pains are, at best, distractions. So, it’s ultimately in your best interest to put your health and comfort first through ergonomics. 

But laptops, unfortunately, present a number of challenges in doing so.

The Problem With Laptops

Laptop computers’ compact size and portability are key to their popularity. Unfortunately, these benefits require sub-optimal design choices with regard to ergonomics. By focusing on portability, laptops cause the following problems:

  • Attached monitor and keyboard – With a laptop, the keyboard and monitor are directly attached, preventing the ability to adjust each separately. Ideal ergonomics dictate more spacing to allow for neutral postures in both your neck, shoulders, wrists, and arms. This actually isn’t a new problem, as desktop computers were similarly integrated until musculoskeletal discomfort forced designers to adapt.
  • Cramped keyboard spacing – Depending on the size of the laptop, keyboards are often designed in a more compact way that can oddly place, shrink, or even omit keys. Because of this, users face more risk of repetitive-motion wrist injuries and pain.
  • In-computer mouse – Whether a pointing stick or touchpad, laptops often use integrated mouse configurations. While convenient when on the go, these interfaces are not optimized for lengthy use. As with any laptop keyboard, extended use can result in the risk of a wrist injury.
  • Small monitors – Unsurprisingly, laptop monitors are often smaller than desktop monitors. Depending on the screen size and resolution, this can result in unnecessary eye strain that can lead to graver problems.

  • While these issues are less problematic when a laptop is used as a secondary computer, that’s not how most individuals utilize their laptops today. In fact, laptops now sell far more units than “traditional computers.” With computing now truly portable through mobile phones, laptops have become our everyday workhorse. 

    Thus, we owe to ourselves to seek healthy ways to mitigate the strain they place on our physiological systems. By implementing an ergonomic lapstop stand for desk settings, you’ll be able to better function at work without jeopardizing your health. 

    Seeking Neutral Postures

    When using a laptop at home or work for an extended period of time, it is best to ensure your working environment caters to your needs. For starters, you’ll want to focus on where and how you’re sitting, so as to promote neutral postures whenever possible. But how do you know what neutral postures should be?

    When seated, you’ll want your neck aligned with your spine, so that your ears are equidistantly positioned on your shoulders (which should be relaxed, not hunched). Moving down your back, your chair should support the curve of your spine, including the inward bend of your lower back. Your elbows should be near to your body, ideally no less than 90 degrees, and your wrists should be aligned with your forearms.

    Not surprisingly, laptops can make achieving this posture difficult. So let’s discuss best practices on how to ergonomically use a laptop, including potential accessories!

    How To Ergonomically Use A Laptop?

    Having established our goals, here are the steps you can take when using a laptop for an extended period of time. You’ll want to set up your workstation along a number of key areas:

    • Try to adjust your chair heights, utilize different tables, or change how your keyboard is angled to maintain neutral wrist postures. You can even try a sit-stand desk!
    • Avoid resting your wrists in front of the keyboard while you are typing. Instead, seek to incorporate more motion of your arms when possible.
    • When seated, try to position your chair height or use a footrest so that your hips are only slightly higher than your knees to avoid strain on your lower body. 
    • Position your laptop to avoid glare on your screen by sitting at a right angle to windows and using subdued lighting.
    • Stop periodically to get up and move. You can also do exercises at your desk, including neck rotations, shoulder squeezes, wrist flexes, eye rolls and more.

    Together, these tips can have a transformative impact on your comfort and productivity. Even following all these steps, however, you’ll still be faced with a major challenge: your laptop’s integrated keyboard and monitor. If you’re consistently working in the same spot, it’s wise to invest in the necessary accessories to avoid this issue.

    Ergonomic Laptop Setups

    In the best ergonomic setup, you’ll want your monitor at eye level, about an arm’s length from your face. Because this isn’t possible with a laptop on its own, you’ll need to utilize supporting accessories. 

    To set up your workstation, you have a few primary options to position your laptop:

  • Laptop stand A laptop stand will lift your laptop to a more suitable height and can be adjusted to change alignment for improved viewing angles. When using a stand to elevate your laptop’s monitor as your primary screen, you may want a separate keyboard and mouse for the best wrist and arm posture.
  • Separate monitor – You might also consider investing in a separate monitor that’s positioned at the ideal height and distance. You can even combine one with some stands to ensure your keyboard is ideally tilted.
  • Docking station – A docking station is a simple solution that allows you to plug your laptop into a “main station” that has other accessories running into it, potentially including a separate monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

  • Using Your Laptop Ergonomically On The Go

    Sometimes, however, you’ll be using a laptop for a longer period of time away from your workstation so a portable ergonomic laptop stand is essential in these cases. Even in these situations, there are still a number of ways to ensure you’re not damaging your health or straining your body. 

    If using your laptop on your lap, try using a binder with the larger side away from you (or a stack of books!) to elevate your device. There are even laptop stands that are portable enough to bring on the go. Just don’t use pillows or other soft materials, as these can lead to overheating. You can use a pillow to support your arms while typing, however! 

    Try to optimize your setup for your specific needs. If you’re primarily reading, you’ll want to focus on positioning your laptop so that the monitor is optimally placed. If you’re doing more typing, proper ergonomic positioning of your keyboard is the more critical area to focus on. In either case, you don’t want to strain your wrists or eyes and mitigating these risks comes down to intelligent positioning. 

    Ergonomic Ways To Carry Your Laptop

    You shouldn’t just be thinking about ergonomics while you’re using your laptop, however. Lugging your laptop around can cause major strain on your back, especially if you’ve opted for a laptop of larger dimensions. 

    Consider the following tips when traveling with your hardware:

    • Choose the right laptop for you. While maximum screen size can reduce eye strain and a larger keyboard may be easier to use, a bigger laptop can weigh more and be harder to transport. 
    • Pick a carrying case that helps with the burden. Backpacks can distribute the weight so it’s less focused on one part of your body. If using a bag with a single strap or handle, switch sides often to balance the load (and select a bag with sufficient padding!).
    • Carefully consider what other items you need, including files, binders, external hardware, chargers, and cables. You can also use a second bag for those items to help balance things out.
    • If travelling with a suitcase or wheeled bag, you can also stash your laptop inside to alleviate the payload. 

    Final Thoughts

    While they’re incredibly convenient, using a laptop ergonomically isn’t always intuitive to us. Truth be told, most of us haven’t been trained to think about ergonomics.

    But today, that doesn’t have to be the case. By implementing ergonomic practices and remaining conscious of your posture, you’ll reduce the risk of strain (which, of course, can lead to serious health issues over time).

    Here at Mount-It!, we help you stay comfortable, healthy, and productive. 


    Sources:

    Chartered Institute of Ergonomics. What Is Ergonomics?. https://www.ergonomics.org.uk/Public/Resources/What_is_Ergonomics_.aspx 

    Susan Volpi Palmer, MS, PT. Ergonomic Tips For Laptop Users. https://www.scoe.org/files/ergo-tips-laptop.pdf 

    UC Santa Cruz. Ergonomic Tips for Laptop Users. https://ehs.ucsc.edu/programs/ergo/documents/laptop-ergonomics.pdf

    ThoughtCo. How to Ergonomically Set Up Your Laptop as a Desktop. https://www.thoughtco.com/set-up-laptop-as-a-desktop-1206662