By simply adding an adjustable laptop stand and external input devises (keyboard and mouse) you can transform your laptop. But first, let’s understand why the experts, like the folks at Cornell University, say “the design of laptops violates a basic ergonomic requirement for a computer”. 1
Why Do Laptops Violate Basis Ergonomic Design Requirements?
Laptops were designed originally to be used occasionally and for short periods. However, they have become so powerful that they have essentially replaced the need for desktop computers. But they have also taken us back into the computer dark ages. In the words of our friends at Cornell “in the early days of personal computing, desktop devices integrated the screen and keyboard into a single unit. This resulted in widespread complaints of musculoskeletal discomfort.
"By the late 1970's a number of ergonomics design guidelines were written and all called for the separation of screen and keyboard. The reason is simple - with a fixed design, if the keyboard is in an optimal position for the user, the screen isn't and if the screen is optimal the keyboard isn't. Consequently, laptops are excluded from current ergonomic design requirements because none of the designs satisfy this basic need. This means that you need to pay special attention to how you use your laptop because it can cause you problems.” 2
Believe it or not, pain is not a normal consequence of computer usage and you don't have to put up with it.
6 Tips for Using Your Laptop in Comfort
Start with the Chair. Learn why and how to adjust your ergonomically designed task chair. (and if you don’t have one get one)
A kitchen chair or dining room chair is not an ergonomic task chair. “The chair must fit the sitter. One size cannot fit all. The ergonomic design, size, and its ability to adjust to an individual, matters.” (see our Blog "Ergonomic Seating Part 1 of 4"). Once we grasp the “why”, we understand that all those nobs and levers contribute to our immediate comfort and our future well-being. And, once we grasp the “how”, we understand that attaining the most comfortable fit is really pretty simple.
Understand that laptops do violate the basic ergonomic requirements
Like I quoted earlier: The reason is simple - with a fixed design, if the keyboard is in an optimal position for the user, the screen isn't and if the screen is optimal the keyboard isn't. Most people will end up slouching to see the display – and rubbing their shoulders and neck and popping pills for their headache and sore back. (Massage therapists love laptops – just sayin’)
Use separate external input devises
A separate keyboard and mouse are essential to your laptop’s transition into an ergonomically designed devise. These components are relatively inexpensive and readily available online or at your local box store. This should be considered mandatory if you use your laptop at work as your main computer.
Fit your work surface to you
The kitchen table, or the dining table, or a traditional office desk, for that matter, miss the mark. None of these meet basic ergonomic requirements for the majority of our population. For most of us the surface is too high, causing us to scrunch up our shoulders and bend our wrists. To find a comfortable posture, elevate your chair and use a foot rest. Or, if you have an adjustable desk, you can lower your surface to your comfortable level. (Check out our recent blog “Your Desk Should Fit You – NOT The Other Way Around”). One advantage of many height adjustable desks is that they allow you to get the work surface down to a comfortable keying height. (also check out this cool Ergonomic Assessment Tool to find what height is right for you.)
Position your laptop stand
There is one last critical component to your making your laptop compliant. An adjustable laptop stand completes the basic ergonomic requirement for a laptop computer. This stand will elevate your laptop monitor so that you don’t need to slouch down to view your screen. Ergonomists tell us that it’s most comfortable to place the top of the viewing surface at about eye level.3
Adjust your posture frequently
“Your best posture is your next posture.” No one posture, regardless of how comfortably fitted and supported, is good for extended periods without moving. There is a growing realization that working for hours on our computer is contributing to a sedentary lifestyle that is having a negative impact on our future physical well-being.