During flight

For the next stop in our mobile ergonomics series, we’re jetting off to the skies to visit the most cramped of mobile workspaces: the airplane. Without any colleagues or phone calls to distract you, airplanes can actually be a highly productive place to work. However, thanks to crying babies and very little leg space, they can also be incredibly distracting and uncomfortable. Below we take a look at the top ways to keep yourself comfortable and speeding through your workload from 30,000 feet.

1. Pack all of the Right Extra Gear

From tablets to laptops, most work on airplanes happens on mobile devices. And it’s no wonder; with their light, slim design, these devices are easy to slip into carry-on luggage and take with you wherever you go. There’s just one problem: mobile devices on their own are terrible ergonomics. The straight keyboards on both tablets and laptops will force your wrists into unnatural positions, greatly increasing your chances of developing a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSIs). Both devices also cause most users to hunch as they strain to see the screen, though the problem is especially pronounced with tablets, which anchor the screen and keyboard to one flat screen.

To remedy this problem, consider packing a laptop stand and a mobile keyboard. This will allow you to place your device on your tray and type with the keyboard in your lap, guiding your hands, wrists, joints and even your neck and back into a more ideal position.

Other extra gear you might want to include: an extra battery pack so you can work for long periods of time and sound canceling headphones so you can shut out the hum of the engines, loud conversations and crying children.

Shop Ergonomic Keyboards

Goldtouch V2 Adjustable Keyboard | PC and Mac (USB)
Goldtouch V2 Adjustable Keyboard | PC Only (USB)
Goldtouch Go!2 Bluetooth Wireless Mobile Keyboard | PC and Mac
Goldtouch Go!2 Mobile Keyboard | PC and Mac

2. Protect Your Laptop

Protecting your laptop with a keyboard cover and a laptop case is always a good idea during transit to prevent dings and water damage. However, you’ll still want to take added precautions, like closing the lid of your laptop during food and beverage services so there are no accidental spills. You may also want to consider a screen guard to prevent glare and to protect against any snooping neighbors who may be reading sensitive information over your shoulders.

3. Wear Comfortable Clothing

stack of clothes from knitted knitwear on a wooden background

The last thing you want on a long flight is to find yourself focusing on how uncomfortable you are in that too tight pair of jeans. Wear breathable shoes that can be slipped off easily at TSA and loosened on the plane, should your feet swell. It’s also a good idea to pack an extra sweater should the temperature dip, as well as an extra undershirt so you can quickly change mid- or post-flight on your way to a meeting. A few toiletries like toothpaste, a toothbrush and deodorant can also be essential in keeping you feeling fresh and motivated during the flight and ready to go once you land.

4. Move Around

Moving around is just as important on the plane as it is in the office. In fact, with health risks like Deep Vein Thrombosis always a threat on long haul flights, moving around on the plane isn’t just a matter of keeping you alert and motivated; it’s also essential for safeguarding your health. From neck rolls to leg stretches, there are a great number of ways to move in your seat. Or, do a few lunges and squats while you wait for the bathroom. Keeping hydrated will serve the dual purpose of helping you combat the dry, recirculated air and giving you an excuse to get up regularly. Use a website like SeatGuru to help you find a seat that will provide the most space for all of your plane-style exercise.

5. Be Ready for the Airport, Too

Got a long layover? Don’t let the antiquated US hub system slow you down. After all of that sitting, hunt out a high table or bar to work from, so you can stand while you type and really get that blood flowing. Make sure to bring your power plug with you and even an extra powerstrip, as plugs in airports are often limited. If you travel frequently, consider getting a GoGo wireless account through your company, as this is often the best way to access Internet both onboard and in the terminal. Alternatively, learn how to turn your phone into a mobile hotspot, and simply use your data plan to connect.

The Takeaway

With just a few key strategies in place, working on an airplane can be a productive and healthy way to spend several (or many hours). How do you stay efficient in-flight? Let us know in the comments below.