Are you getting back or wrist ache? Working from your laptop could be the cause.
Laptops are a fast, stylish, and lightweight choice for office workers. Convenient as they may be, laptops can promote bad posture and a poor work environment, leading to repetitive strain injuries (RSI).
Read on to find out how to combat your laptop’s shortcomings for a comfortable, ergonomic laptop setup that’ll reduce pain and boost productivity at work.
Avoid placing your laptop on your lap
Your laptop might have ‘lap’ in its name, but regularly resting your laptop on your legs creates an uncomfortable, restrictive posture. You’re at risk of slouching forward, putting strain on your back, and compressing your chest. At a minimum, we’d recommend raising the laptop slightly on a padded lap tray, but using your laptop on your lap is best avoided at all costs.
If you must occasionally perch your laptop across your thighs, sit with your back straight and avoid bringing your ears any further forward than your shoulders to prevent unwanted slumping.
Switch sitting with standing
It’s easy to become absorbed in your daily work. Before you know it, you’ve been sitting at your desk for hours on end. With the flat profile of a laptop, it can be hard on your wrists, shoulders, and back to sit at the screen all day.
To give your body a much-needed break from sitting, you can alternate between sitting and standing while working from your laptop. Get yourself a standing desk or a stand to adapt your existing desk. Then, switch between standing and sitting every hour. It can help relieve back compression and boost hip mobility, too.
Raise your laptop higher
One of the main concerns with using a laptop is that when the keyboard is the right height for your wrists, the screen is too low. But sometimes it’s inconvenient to plug in an external monitor, particularly if you’re working on the go.
The solution? Investing in a laptop stand that can tilt and adjust means you can raise the monitor height. Having the top of the monitor level with your eyes promotes a good posture and relieves strain on your neck and back. Plus, you can purchase an ergonomic laptop stand that is lightweight and fits right in your laptop bag so you won’t even notice the extra bulk.
Choose a supportive chair
While no seating arrangement can instantly fix back pain, having the right kind of office chair can help support your back and promote a better posture.
Choose a chair that is height adjustable, so that you can ensure your feet are flat on the ground with your thighs parallel to the seat. The back of the chair should offer back support such as a lumbar cushion to follow the natural curve of your spine.
Sit with your back against the chair to avoid slouching, and move the armrests so your arms are flat with the surface of your desk and not at an uncomfortable angle.
Use an external monitor.
When you have the space and budget, using an external monitor with your laptop can be a wise choice.
Remember how we mentioned raising your laptop using an ergonomic laptop stand can help bring the monitor height up to your eyes? Plugging in a separate monitor means you can still use your laptop, but now the keyboard and trackpad can remain at a comfortable height for your wrists and arms while the external monitor is adjusted to the correct height while you work.
Use an external keyboard and mouse
For long-term use, your laptop is best paired with an ergonomic keyboard and mouse. While laptop stands and external monitors can fix the issue of your screen being too low, your laptop’s inbuilt keyboard and trackpad are not made for working long periods of time. The flat, narrow profile of the keyboard is great for convenience, but sitting with your wrists and arms placed in an unnatural position can increase the risk of repetitive strain injuries (RSI).
Thankfully, you can plug in an ergonomic keyboard and mouse to transform your working area while still getting the most out of your laptop. Ergonomic keyboards can ‘split’ and ‘tent’ into a position that mimics your natural posture and shoulder width, which makes typing much more comfortable. An external mouse can help alleviate pressure on your joints by tilting at a more natural angle. For added comfort, pair your external keyboard and mouse with a wrist rest.
Take regular breaks
Nobody should sit at their desk for several hours without moving, especially if you’re slouched over a laptop. To boost your circulation, strengthen your muscles, and rest your eyes, take regular breaks.
Use a Pomodoro timer as a reminder to get up from your desk and walk around. Try to avoid screens altogether during your breaks and instead, focus your eyes on something in the distance to avoid eye fatigue. Perform gentle stretches to support your neck, back, and arms—there are plenty of apps that offer exercises for desk workers. You can even move around with mini workouts to get your blood pumping while you’re not sitting in front of your laptop.
When used correctly, laptops are a fantastic asset to your office. To avoid the risk of injury and bad posture, you can:
- Avoid resting your laptop on your legs
- Alternate between sitting and standing at work
- Use a laptop stand to elevate the monitor height or plug in an external monitor
- Sit on a chair that offers adjustable height and back support
- Use an ergonomic keyboard and mouse
- Take regular breaks away from your laptop