Laptop computers are everywhere. They’re portable and lightweight – so much so, that many people use them throughout the day, be it at work, at home, or at the local coffee shop. But laptop use can lead to posture problems, if you’re not careful.
The very thing that makes a laptop computer so popular – its convenient all-in-one design – also makes it a potential hazard. Unlike a desktop computer, a laptop’s keyboard and screen are attached to each other. Ergonomically speaking, an optimal computer setup would have your monitor in your direct eye line, your keyboard near your waist, and your forearms at a 90-degree angle to your upper arms. But due to its attached screen, this is not possible with a laptop.
With a laptop, you make sacrifices. Your typing position may be too high, which can cause issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome. And your monitor position may be too low, which can cause neck- and shoulder-strain issues.
To minimize laptop-related issues, you should consider the following suggestions:
- Purchase a docking station and external monitor for your laptop. Not only will this monitor be larger and easier to read, it can be adjusted to a proper ergonomic level.
- Consider a second keyboard. A second keyboard can be placed in a keyboard tray under your desk that can help you maintain an optimal 90-degree elbow angle.
- Try to find a chair that can be adjusted to provide the best compromise between monitor angle and keyboard position.
- If you are unable to work at an ergonomic laptop station, make sure you take frequent breaks—usually every 20 minutes or so. This will help minimize joint and muscle strain.
- Be aware of warning signs. If you notice tingling, numbness, or pain, take a break. If it persists, see a doctor.
- And, finally, never use a laptop on your lap. Not only does this force you to look down at your monitor at a very awkward angle, it also creates the risk of heat damage. Modern portable computers have become thinner and smaller as they’ve become more powerful. This means they generate more heat with less space to dissipate it. Consequently, laptops get extremely hot, especially when used for intensive tasks or for long periods of time. In fact, this risk of burning your skin is why laptops are no longer called laptops but are instead referred to as notebook computers by the computer industry.
For more information on laptop ergonomics visit our workstation tips page.