How To Create An Ergonomic Laptop Setup Without Breaking The Bank
Arranging your workspace ergonomically is a great work-from-home best practice that can save you tons of physical pain in the long run. This article covers a checklist to ensure your laptop is set up ergonomically correct so you can work at high productivity without compromising your physical well-being.
How To Create An Ergonomic Laptop Setup Without Breaking The Bank
Over 91% of digital nomads use laptops because they are portable and get the work done. But there is a grave problem with using laptops in the long-run: laptop ergonomics are not the friendliest to our bodies.
You see, laptops were originally designed for short periods of use where a person could not access a desktop computer. As laptops were improvised over time, its popularity soared above desktop computer every year, eventually replacing them.
When laptops are used for long periods, you are more likely to experience neck and shoulder pain, back strain, and other physical injuries.
And here’s why.
The screen and the keyboard are too close together and the small size can force our bodies to assume awkward—and discomforting—positions like hunching the back, tilting our heads down, leaning forward, and resting our wrists on flat, hard surfaces. These positions may feel nothing at first, but they can strain our bodies over time, leading to injuries to the muscles, nerves, and joints.
This is why laptops are not ideal, but you don’t have to forfeit your laptop just yet. There are ways to create a friendly laptop ergonomic setup.
Here are 7 elements you need to consider when setting up your laptop-based workspace.
7 Must-have Elements To Create An Ergonomic Laptop Setup
When you’re working, it is important to be aware of the body posture you’re assuming. The closer your posture is to the image below, the less likely you’ll develop physical injuries.
The body is seated up straight with a natural S-shape curvature, the knee and elbow joints are positioned at 90 degrees (for sitting), both feet are flat on the floor, and eyes are on the same level as the top of the monitor.
With the correct sitting and standing posture in mind, let’s explore how you can arrange your laptop workspace to be ergonomic-friendly.
1. Screen & Keyboard
First things first, a good posture ensures the neck is in a neutral position, meaning the eyes are looking straight ahead. To achieve this neutral-neck position, the monitor needs to be raised until the monitor's top edge reaches your eye level.
In this position, you can view the entire monitor without tilting your neck too much, although occasionally you might need to look down slightly while typing. The point is to maintain this neutral neck position most of the time.
But how do you position the laptop exactly?
You can try two ways: get a laptop ergonomic stand and keyboard or purchase an external monitor.
If you opt for an external monitor, place the monitor an arm’s length away from you and adjust the height until the top edge reaches your eye level. Then position the laptop’s keyboard so your elbows are at 90 degrees, resting on your chair’s armrest (if you have), and able to type comfortably.
If you opt for a laptop ergonomic stand, position the laptop so the top of the screen is on your eye level. You also need to purchase an external keyboard so your wrists can rest on the table and elbows can stay at 90 degrees while typing. Even better, get keyboards with wrist paddings (you’ll know why below).
You can either get a mouse wrist cushion or an ergonomic mouse (which looks and feels awkward at first).
The wrist cushion reduces pressure while providing comfort to the wrists. The ergonomic mouse is slightly more expensive but takes the pressure off the wrists (on the palm side) entirely. It also takes time to get used to an ergonomic mouse because it changes your hand position from palm facing down to a handshake.
The spine of a good posture is your spine (pun intended). Having an ergonomic chair that can support your entire back is ideal, but they often cost more than $100 and not everyone can afford it.
But there are other cheaper alternatives you can try.
If your chair doesn’t have lumbar support (the part where the spine curves in naturally, near the lower back), grab a small towel and roll it up or a small pillow. Place it in between the chair and your lumbar, and sit back. Adjust the towel or pillow according to your comfort level. You can also buy specially-designed lumbar pillows for less than $20.
The correct posture requires both feet flat on the ground because it makes sure your body weight is distributed evenly across your hips.
If you’re wearing heels, removing them, or switching to a flat shoe may be the most comfortable. Well, what if your feet can’t reach the ground? No worries, you can use a footrest or a stack of hard-cover books. Adjust the height of the footrest until your thighs are at 90 degrees against the calves.
Tip: Try not to sit with your legs crossed. This can reduce blood flow and cause muscle strain.
Staring at a brightly colored screen for hours is the recipe for eye fatigue, muscle strain, and headaches.
But with simple adjustments, you can reduce the strain and do your eyes a favor. Try any of the suggestions below:
The 20-20-20 formula. Look away from your screen every 20 minutes for 20 seconds and focus on a fixed point at least 20 feet away.
Change the color of your screen to a warmer color like yellow or orange, they are much gentler to the eyes than white lights. Use free tools like f.lux to change the color automatically.
Adjust the brightness of your screen. Turn off the lights in your workspace. If the laptop screen looks like a light source, it’s too bright. If it seems dull and gray, it’s probably too dark.
6. Take Breaks Regularly
Even if you have achieved the perfect laptop ergonomic setup, sitting or standing for long hours is not sustainable for your health.
Pause for 5 - 10 minutes and stretch different parts of your body, particularly the neck, shoulder, and spine. Do some relaxation practice like meditation or napping to give your body the break it deserves. Try to avoid the screen during the break to give your eyes a rest.
Wrapping It Up
Use the checklist below to ensure your laptop is set up ergonomically so you can work at high productivity without compromising your physical well-being.
Is your posture correct when you’re sitting and standing while working?
Is your screen’s top edge on your eye level?
Are your elbows positioned at 90 degrees while typing?
Is your wrist well-cushioned or free of pressure?
Is your lumbar well-supported?
Are both of your feet flat on the ground?
Are your thighs at 90 degrees against the calves?
Is your screen brightness set to warmer colors?
Arranging your workspace ergonomically is a great work-from-home best practice that can save you tons of physical pain in the long run.
Your workspace is where you spend the majority of your working hours, so why not make it comfortable, safe, and fun?
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