Ergonomics Guide: Setting Up A Workstation With a Laptop
The design of the laptop itself violates the basic ergonomics the human body requires for a computer. In desktop PC, there’s a good space in between the keyboard and the screen to allow you to position your head, shoulders and arms in relation to your view to of the computer. Laptops don’t offer this kind of luxury. This means users need to pay extra attention on your work position as you use your laptop, or risk repetitive strain injury. Here at Dual Monitors Guide, we emphasize on the importance of ergonomics. More and more people are turning into laptops and use it as their main device for work. If you’re one of these people, then this post is for you.
Occasional Use vs. Full-Time Use
The problem with this mobile computer is that, they’re designed for better portability, which compromises our back, neck and wrists. When set at the right height, the keyboard can be too high for the wrist, and when the keyboard is in the right position, the screen will be too low and too close. Also, laptop’s touchpads are never good for our hands.
The right way to use your laptop depends on how often you use your laptop. Are you an occasional user who simply uses your laptop to check, read and send emails and your social media profiles? Or do you carry your portable computer wherever you go and work on it for hour on a regular basis? Obviously, occasional users don’t have to deal with the negative effects of sedentary lifestyle caused by prolonged computer use. Meaning, they have less risk of dealing health problems compared to full-tie users.
Keeping the Right Work Posture
As said in the earliest paragraph, the design of the laptop really violates the very basic principle of ergonomics. Though it has the portability and work flexibility users on-the-go can really benefit from, it’s a tradeoff for poor head posture and hand posture.
Quick Tips for Occasional Users
The positioning of the head and neck is both determined by the large muscles. If you’re only using your laptop occasionally, or say few minutes a day, then you can afford to compromise your posture.
For occasional laptop users, you just need to find a comfortable chair, or a spot, where you can sit back and relax, put the laptop on your lap and find a good angle for the screen so you can see the screen with the least neck deviation possible.
Quick Tips for Full-Time Users
If you use your laptop as your main computer for work, then you definitely need better ergonomics to keep your body in the right posture as much as possible.
Uncaged Ergonomics WorkEZ Standing Desk (source:Amazon)
The best way to do this is to put the laptop on your work surface or desk in a position where you can see everything on its screen clearly, without bending your neck forward or backward. Your head and neck should be in neutral position, aligned with your spine. This may mean that you have to elevate your laptop higher than your desk surface. You can use a stable support surface by piling up large old books, use a small wooden box, or better yet, use a laptop desk.
U473D Slim Multimedia Keyboard with 2 USB Port (source: Amazon)
Because you have elevated your laptop off your desk, this means it will be hard for your hands and arms to reach for the laptop’s keyboard while sitting. To solve this problem, you can either use a separate keyboard, a USB keyboard and mouse, to connect to your laptop’s docking station. Position your keyboard at negative-tilt to ensure better wrist position.
Ergotron WorkFit-P, Sit-Stand Workstation (source: Amazon)
You can also opt for sit-stand laptop workstation so you can work freely; stand to allow better blood flow throughout your body while working, and sit to give your legs a rest. Switching between sitting and standing is a great way to alleviate the health risks of sedentary lifestyle, and certainly one of the best ways to work with a laptop.
VARIDESK Pro Height-Adjustable Standing Desk (source: Amazon)
Some people go even further with desktop riser. It’s a great way to work efficiently, as it doesn’t allow you to switch from sitting and standing work position, it also allows you to work with dual monitor setup. It’s a great alternative and upgrade for full-time laptop users who doesn’t want to get rid of their existing desk.
More Laptop Ergonomic Tips
Despite its name “laptop,” you want to avoid putting the device on your lap as much as possible. Putting your laptop on your lap will force your back to slouch. Also, some new studies show that, the heat from the laptop can actually damage your skin and cause serious health problem in the long run.
If you really have to work with your computer on your lap, such as while on a train or while relaxing on a recliner and checking your emails by the beach, at least put the laptop on top of a laptop bag or briefcase so you can raise it a little higher.
Put the Laptop Screen at Eye Level
Furinno Adjustable Vented Laptop Table Laptop Computer Desk (source: Amazon)
This is what we do with our computer monitor, and ideally, we want to mimic this position for our laptop. Putting your screen at eye level will give you the best view of the screen without having to bend or put your neck at an awkward position for extended period of time. Setting your screen at eye level and your keyboard at arm’s length can be difficult with laptop. You can pile up some thick books to elevate the laptop off your desk, but this can still feel awkward, especially if you’re working on your computer for long hours, every day. Your best solution is to use a laptop desk, preferably an adjustable height sit-stand laptop desk. This office ergonomic product will put you in the right work posture, allowing you to work better and stay productive without hurting your wrist, shoulders, neck, and back.
Use a Separate Keyboard, Preferably an Ergonomic Keyboard
Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop (source: Amazon)
As said earlier, under the Quick Tips section, if you’re using your laptop computer for work, then you need to get a full-sized USB keyboard to free your wrist and arms from the restricted keyboard space of your laptop. Or better yet, get a pair of ergonomic keyboard and mouse to help keep your wrist and arms at the best typing/working position as you work on your computer for extended period of time. Also, make sure you put your elbows at 90⁰ angle when working on the keyboard, this will help relax your shoulders and arms.
Recline Slightly, Or Look for a Good Office Chair
SPACE Seating Professional Base Managers Chair (source: Amazon)
If you don’t want to use a separate keyboard and mouse, then your best alternative is an ergonomic chair that will allow you to recline slightly and position the laptop with the least strain for your neck. Angle the laptop screen slightly upward so you can still see the screen without having to bend your neck down. Choose a chair that comes with great lower back support.
Since you will be working on your computer for hours, the least you can do for your body is to get a chair that can provide all the comfort and ergonomics it needs. Choose an office chair with good lumbar support. See our post about finding the right ergonomic office chair for more information.
Choose a Laptop with Larger Screen
Dell Inspiron i5748-2143sLV 17.3-Inch Laptop (source: Amazon)
Though we want to keep our laptop as compact and light as possible, working on a portable computer with small screen can become counter-productive. Smaller screen will force your neck to a restrained posture, and smaller texts can be hard to read. If you work with documents, spreadsheets and word files a lot, then you need a screen that can display bigger font size. So if possible, get a mid-sized laptop or larger screen for your convenience.
Prop Your Feet Up
Kensington Solemate Comfort Footrest with SmartFit System (source: Amazon)
Should you raise your chair to put your arms and wrist on a comfortable position, make sure you give the same comfort for your feet as well. Allow better blood flow throughout your legs by raising your knee slightly higher than your hips, this will help keep excess strain away from your lower back. You can put a small box under your feet, or better yet, use a footrest, to keep your legs at the right posture.
Take Frequent Breaks
Studies show that taking short but frequent breaks is far better than an-hour long break. Standing from your workstation and walking around to stretch and giving your body a rest from the stress of sitting can stimulate creativity and provide more energy. Hence, better efficiency and productivity. Take frequent breaks every thirty minutes, or at the very least, give your eyes a rest from the screen. Stand up from your chair and walk around. You can also do simple stretches while at your work station. Make sure you stretch your arms, legs, neck, and shoulders.
For more about office ergonomics and to know more about the best ergonomic solutions for your workstation, check out Dual Monitors Guide now!