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A Modern Guide to Using Laptop at Desk

27 September 2023

When laptops were created in the early 1980s, they looked pretty similar to how they appear today. The screen is attached to the keyboard, and it's a single unit that collaborates to produce relevant outcomes. And given that the laptop features and ergonomics have mostly stayed the same since its advent, the best practices involved with ergonomic laptop use haven't changed either. The best ergonomic practices that used to be true over 40 years ago are still relevant.

However, there has been a significant change in how individuals with desk jobs are now using a laptop. Laptops were originally designed to provide functionality and connectivity to working professionals on the go. With a laptop, they would connect to meetings even when traveling and the primary equipment used for working in offices used to be a desktop. Hence, it can be concluded that laptops were originally not designed to be used daily, every day.

However, things have changed drastically over the last few years. With the rise in work-from-home and updated technologies that allow connectivity and functionality from any corner of the world, a significant change has occurred in how people use a laptop today. It now serves as an everyday essential in workplaces and for individuals practicing remote work.

Even though there haven't been many structural changes, the significant change in how the equipment is now used has developed a need for a modern guide to ergonomically using a laptop at the desk. And that's what we look at today.

In what follows, we share a modern guide to laptop ergonomics for laptop users with a desk job. Below we look at the most recent research and technologies that provide an updated checklist of how to work best on your laptop, whether at your office or home office while taking care of your body.

But before we get into these details, it's essential for you to know that working on a laptop every day poses a health risk.

Why is Working on a Laptop Everyday a Risk?

When laptops were first designed, their primary use wasn't to serve the user all day. Instead, they were intended to provide connectivity to users while traveling. Moreover, when laptops were first used, they would be paired with other digital devices on docking stations to view data on large screens.

However, over the years, the function of a laptop has changed drastically, and the effect has been more significant during the pandemic as millions of individuals with a desk job are now working from home. The continuous, everyday use of a laptop can be associated with several health risks.

According to research, working long hours on a laptop puts you in an uncomfortable position that causes pain and discomfort at the end of the workday. Continued use of a laptop daily contributes to neck and shoulder pain and discomfort. It causes backache, headache, eyestrain, and several other types of repetitive overuse injuries to arms, wrists, and hands.

The good news is that you can avoid all these health concerns while using a laptop daily. However, the key lies in knowing and practicing good laptop ergonomics that are safe and effective, which we discuss in the next section.

So, let's get started.

Using Laptop Ergonomically – Tips and Tricks at a Glance

One of the primary objectives you should keep in mind when using a laptop is to maintain a neutral body position, which means that your bones, muscles, and nerves experience minimal stress while working on a laptop at your desk.

Prolonged sitting in an awkward position and deviation from your body's neutral position can lead to a wide range of musculoskeletal concerns and repetitive strain injuries over time. However, only some individuals with desk jobs know how to maintain a neutral body posture.

Here's a checklist to help you how can conveniently use a laptop while maintaining a neutral body posture.

#1. Invest in a Laptop Stand

Perhaps the most critical ergonomic workplace accessory that will help you to use your laptop ergonomically is a laptop stand. The primary purpose of this accessory is to raise the screen to eye level.

When your screen is elevated, it helps reduce physical strain on your eyes, neck, shoulders, and upper back. It helps enhance comfort and productivity as your upper body is adequately aligned. There are several different types of laptop stands that you can find on the market; each has unique pros and cons. Some of the different types of laptop stands include

Wedge-Shaped Laptop Stands – The easy-to-carry-around laptop stands allow you to prepare an ergonomic laptop setup. This type of laptop stand is recommended when mobility is your priority.

Dual Rise Stands – The more robust structure is designed to support a laptop at home or the office.

Laptop Trays – These are large, stable surfaces that take up a lot of desk space while elevating your laptop screen. This type of laptop stand is recommended for laptop use on the bed or on a tall surface.

If you need help determining which laptop stand is best for you, we recommend the Portable Laptop Stand Docking Station TD1 by FlexiSpot. The multi-functional laptop stand not only elevates your laptop screen but also offers many more features that are hard to find in a typical laptop stand. Find out more about this product and other ergonomic office accessories here.

#2. Use an External Keyboard to Maintain a Neutral Wrist Position

Connecting an external keyboard is the other essential aspect of laptop use that will help you maintain a neutral wrist position. The external keyboard allows you to place your hands and wrists in a neutral position that aids in reducing strain on your wrists and hands and hence lower the risk of painful wrist conditions like tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

#3. Sit Upright on an Ergonomic Office Chair

While using a laptop, let's not forget that how you sit can have a significant impact on your posture. Ideally, invest in an ergonomic office chair that allows you to sit upright with your back relaxed and supported and your ears aligned with the shoulders.

Moreover, your ergonomic office chair should also allow you to adjust the seat's height, and armrests such that your elbows maintain a 90°- 100° angle and your feet are firmly placed on the ground.

If you are a casual laptop user who doesn't work on a desk and an ergonomic office chair, you may find maintaining a neutral body posture challenging. Hence, it's recommended that when you use a laptop, you invest in ergonomic office furniture and accessories so you can continue working on the laptop without compromising your health.

#4. Take a Quick Break to Stretch Every 30 Minutes

Microbreaks are of great significance for an individual with a desk job as it allows you to break from the monotony of the task and regain concentration and focus.

Moreover, if you schedule short and quick stretches into your micro breaks, you can lower your risk of developing musculoskeletal concerns, as stretching aids in improving your physical performance and reducing your risk of injuries.

If you cannot incorporate stretching into your short breaks, try to get a quick walk which will also serve a similar purpose as stretching does.

#5. Alternate Between Your Working Positions

When working on a laptop throughout the day, it's recommended that you switch your working position periodically.

If you're sitting while working all day, try to get up and work while standing for a few minutes before you get to your usual sitting position. If you are a casual laptop user who works without a desk and an ergonomic office chair, you may even try kneeling and squatting while working. However, when doing so, make sure you maintain a good posture with your back aligned and your neck and shoulders relaxed.

#6. Manage Laptop's Blue Light

While working on a laptop, you must protect your eyes from the blue light that's emitted from the computer screen. Persistent exposure to a laptop's blue light can affect your sleep cycle and may even cause damage to your eyes. Hence, it's best to manage your eye's exposure to blue light by using a screen filter and taking regular breaks every 20-30 minutes.

Final Words

While good ergonomic laptop practices have mostly stayed the same over time, given that the use of laptops has increased significantly, today, there is an increased need for knowing and practicing good laptop ergonomics.

With this guide, you can continue using the laptop as your everyday office essential without compromising your health and well-being.