Great news for laptop users: The latest mobile workstations are in and they are everything you have ever dreamed of. The newest super-powerful notebook computers feature quad-core processing power, terabytes of storage, more memory, 17″ screens, professional-grade graphics, comprehensive configuration possibilities, extended warranties, and more.
The not-so-good news: When it comes to ergonomics, laptop workstations are more of a foe than a friend. By their very design, laptops are poorly outfitted for ergonomic use. They may be a modern wonder when it comes to portability and biz on-the-go, however the fact that the keyboard and screen are connected means they cannot be set up independently to ensure proper monitor heights and healthy hand positioning. In fact, if the screen is ideally positioned, using the keyboard becomes awkward; if the keyboard is optimally placed, user’s necks must be craned downwards to see the screen.
For infrequent laptop users (i.e. a couple of hours a day), a few simple solutions are effective. For example, using a separate keyboard tray or a wireless laptop keyboard and mouse while the laptop remains on the desk surface, improves the ergonomics, allowing users to work more comfortably. However for busy professionals on the go who use their laptop day in and day out, further action is required.
Ergonomic Tips for Your Laptop Workstation or Notebook Computer
So how can you fulfill basic ergonomic requirements while using a laptop and avoid the inherent tradeoff between poor head/neck posture and poor hand/wrist posture? Here are some expert-recommended tips for improving the ergonomics of your notebook computer or mobile laptop workstation:
– Surprisingly, the best place to use a laptop computer is not on your lap! Since notebook computers’ excessive heat has been shown to cause internal physical harm over time, place laptops on an adjustable laptop computer stand,
– Elevate your computer screen so that you can see it at eye level and without having to crank your neck; a computer monitor pedestal will do the trick, elevating the laptop off the desk surface,
– Invest in a sit stand electric desk, which will not only raise and lower the work surface by remote control, but will allow you to alternate between sitting and standing positions throughout the day. This in turn increases blood circulation and prevents a host of job-related aches and pains and musculoskeletal disorders associated with prolonged sitting,
– Instead of using the touchpad, trackball, or joystick incorporated into your laptop keyboard, attach a separate keyboard and mouse (wired or wireless), which will allow you to correctly position your arms and wrists and prevent repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome,
– To further ensure neutral wrist posture, place separate keyboards on a negative-tilt keyboard tray; place the mouse on an adjustable position mouse platform,
– Sit in an ergonomic chair that is height-adjustable, provides essential lumbar (low back) support, and allows you to sit in a slightly reclined position, taking weight off low-back muscles and joints,
– Invest in an adjustable laptop computer arm, which ideally positions documents while you type and which can be clamped to a desk, wall, or pole,
– For tight corner desk configurations, invest in a corner desk extender, a device which converts diagonal corners into usable work space, allowing you to work comfortably without being cramped,
– Reduce strain when carrying a laptop by removing all unnecessary baggage from notebook cases and by investing in a case with padded shoulders straps and a handle, and
– Frequent flyers should invest in a wheeled notebook luggage cart which effortlessly transports an entire laptop workstation (including laptop cables, a laptop printer, paper, and more),
– Keep updated on tools and innovations on the Internet for more tips for small and home businesses ergonomics, and
– Finally, remember to take healthy ‘ergo breaks’ every half hour or so by performing simple desk stretches, by moving your eyes off of the screen image for several seconds, and by getting up from your laptop to stretch, move around, go for a walk, or work out.
Creating a proper ergonomic work environment when using a laptop computer is a challenge, but with the correct equipment, accessories, and some height and angle adjustments, you should be able to make your workstation a more comfortable and ergonomically friendly place to work.
Karen Burke is the president and founder of Kare Products. Karen has over 30 years of expertise creating ergonomic furniture that helps avoid injury and promotes health for all types of discomfort and body sizes.