Laptops are everywhere in the workplaceprobably because they let you extend your workplace to, well...everywhere. But they can be a huge problem for you ergonomically, forcing you into bad postures and bad habits. So when doing extended work on your laptop, follow these guidelines to keep your body as sound as your mind.
The single most harmful working posture is the "laptop hunch." Working on a laptop while it's sitting on a desk forces you to lean forward, putting strain on your spine and lower back. Spending too much time working like this can cause a great deal of discomfortin your neck, shoulders, back and even wristsand can lead to long-term musculoskeletal issues. (Chances are you're reading in this position right now.)
One way to relieve some of the discomfort of laptop work is to find yourself a nice recliner to take the load off. Now, gone are the days when these kinds of loungers were found in office suites, but a lot of design studios provide varied kinds of seating, so look around and don't be afraid to improvise. With the laptop on your lap and your body in full recline, you'll be able to work far more comfortably with less strain on your back and shoulders than you would sitting upright at a desk.
The least ergonomic aspect of any laptop computer is the tiny keyboard connected to the display. So with a small investment in an external keyboard with a built-in mouse, you can set your computer display at a proper height and distance for comfortable use.
Position the laptop display about an arm's length away from you, at or slightly below eye level. Now place the external keyboard on your lap so you can lean back in your chair, taking a tremendous load off your back and spine. And with your keyboard on your lap, you can relax your shoulders and straighten your wristsboth keys to avoiding long-term injury.
The ultimate ergo setup for extended laptop use includes an external keyboard, an external mouse, a laptop holder, an articulating keyboard support (installed under your desk) and a good ergonomic chair.
The key to comfort is bringing the work to you. You should be able to recline comfortably in your chair, back engaged with the lumbar support, with your keyboard and mouse in close, convenient reachyou should never have to lean forward or reach for your peripherals.
An adjustable laptop support allows you to adjust the height of the screen. Again, you'll want to position the display about an arm's length away, with the top of the screen at or slightly below eye level. Some laptop supports even have built-in cable management, USB hubs and a swivel feature for collaboration.
If it Feels Good, It Really is Good for You
No matter how you're working, keep one thing in mind: pain is a signal that something's wrong. Comfort is key to productivityas well as avoiding serious musculoskeletal issues, so take some time to arrange a work environment that's good for your bodyand maybe even your bottom line.
Healthy Workstation Guidelines: 11 Ergo Tips (PDF)
Ergonomics 101: Working Painlessly
Robert King is the Founder and CEO of Humanscale, the premier designer and manufacturer of ergonomic products for a more comfortable workplace.
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