An Unlikely Pair: Laptops and Ergonomic Postures
Laptops are everywhere. In fact, 61% of U.S. adults own one. And it’s no wonder why—they’re smaller, lighter and more portable than desktop computers. But they’re truly built for short-term use. If you’ve ever used a laptop, especially for an extended period of time, you might be familiar with a little position we like to call “the laptop hunch.” You lean forward, shrug your shoulders up, round your back, flex your neck down and literally hunch over the computer. When you engage in the laptop hunch, the effects are cumulative. Believe it or not, it is completely possible to use a laptop in an ergonomic posture.
Let’s first address the main issue. Your posture is driven by your hands and your eyes. So, when you use a laptop on a standard-height desk, the keyboard is too high and the screen is too low, encouraging your body to adapt to the work tool, instead of the other way around. By using a laptop in this manner, you invite a host of musculoskeletal issues—and that only leads to discomfort and lost productivity.
So, what can you do about it?
For short-term use, it’s important to find devices that work with you. For example, a laptop stand used in conjunction with an external keyboard and mouse can make a world of difference. The key here is that the top line of text on the monitor should be positioned at or just below your eye level, so that the screen falls within your natural gaze. This will encourage a healthier posture.
For permanent workstations, it’s probably best to hook up your laptop to an external monitor, since research suggests that larger screens may make you more productive, and to install a keyboard tray, thereby facilitating a neutral, hands-in-lap posture.
If neither of these solutions seem workable or affordable to you, or if you’re a “road warrior” who uses a laptop on the road or at home, there’s one other tip we have to offer: Use your laptop while lying down on the couch or bed. Bend your knees so that you support your laptop with your thighs, allowing the screen to fall within your natural gaze.
Next time you use a laptop, consider these tips. Say goodbye to the laptop hunch, and say hello to comfort.