STOP WORKING FROM YOUR LAPTOP
There’s no doubt laptops are here to stay. Having a laptop allows us to be agile, efficient, and constantly on-the-move. You instantly have the ability to work from anywhere without being stuck at a desk. Laptops are great, aren’t they?
Laptops are really great when used simply as a laptop – that is, when you need to work from it for a few minutes, at a coffee shop in the morning, or bring it with you during travel. But… if you’re spending a significant time of the day working , then it’s generally better to work at a desk with a desktop-style setup.
We’ve compiled a list of ways to improve your health by identifying simple changes to implement in your work setup that will create a comfortable and better workstation.
- GET A KEYBOARD AND A MOUSE
First things first – working from a laptop 24/7 can really hurt your body. You may not realize how bad it is to work from your laptop, either because you are young and strong or because by the end of the day, your back pain is not that bad.
But if you’re a person who works remotely with a computer for extended periods, you should start thinking about addressing the long-term implications working on a laptop can create.
The position of wrists and hands is often overlooked, but it is just as important as the position of your back and head. Studies have shown that most remote workers experience pain in one of the essential parts of their body.
A word of caution: never use your laptop’s keyboard or trackpad when using a laptop riser. Regardless of the style of the riser, this is terrible for your wrists, arms, and shoulders. If you’re using a wedge-style riser that increases the angle of the keyboard, typing in this position can cause carpal tunnel syndrome as well as other types of injuries. And if you’re using a riser that lifts the entire laptop off the desk, you’ll need to suspend your arms in midair to type on it, which can damage your arms and shoulders.
By investing in a laptop riser, a separate keyboard, and a mouse, you can create a more ergonomic setup that will make it easier for you to stay productive throughout the day without strain.
Some people prefer typing on an ergonomic keyboard. An ergonomic keyboard often has the two halves of the keyboard separated, which allows your arms to rest in straight line with your body. It’s not for everyone, but upgrading your workspace with an ergonomic keyboard can reduce your wrist strain.
The placement of the keyboard is essential as well. If the keyboard is too low and your elbows are bent at significantly more than a 90 degree angle, you will find yourself compensating by bending your wrists so your hands are level with the keyboard. More commonly, your keyboard will be placed too high, causing you to lift your elbows outward to enable your hands to reach the keyboard. This raises your shoulders and elevates your arms. You can’t imagine how bad it is for your hands and wrists to be 6, 8, or 10 hours in the wrong position – you need to be comfortable. The keyboard should be directly in front of you, at a height that allows your forearms and wrists to be parallel to the ground with your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle.
The screen is one of the most important tools for any remote worker. For that reason, we encourage you to decide if you want to use your laptop as your main monitor or if you prefer a larger external monitor.
To be small and light –ideal to be carried around–, laptops are made with a 13’’ or 15’’ display. That’s fine for working on the go, but if you’re sitting down for extended periods of time, the size of your laptop’s screen will limit your productivity and can cause eye fatigue.
That’s why we recommend investing in a large monitor, one of at least 27’’ or 32’’. Your screen is the window into your work – the bigger it is, the easier it is to manage multiple windows or fit more information on the screen. So, for the sake of productivity, get a monitor of sufficient size – a bigger viewing area will make things easier.
Our standard recommendation is to exclusively use the large monitor and tuck your laptop away in a vertical laptop stand or dock while it powers your whole setup. We find this improves productivity and focus while reducing clutter.
However, you may want to use two monitors, or to use your laptop’s screen (on a laptop riser, of course) as a second display. We understand that this can be beneficial for some types of work (video editing or software development), but we often find that the second display is just a source of distraction (email or Slack). If it’s not distracting and you really need a second monitor, then you can put your laptop in a laptop riser next to you. But the real question is: do you need a second monitor, or is it distracting you?
Whatever you decide, what we truly know is that if you start using your laptop with an external display, your productivity will dramatically increase.
- IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO GET A LARGE MONITOR, GET A LAPTOP RISER
If you decide that you don’t want an external display, then the desk accessory worth investing in is a laptop riser. If your screen is lower than eye-level, you’re forced to move your head down, leading to tight muscles in the neck and shoulders. Make sure to put the screen at the right height – the top of the screen should be approximately eye-level. This height will ensure you keep your neck in a neutral position. For most people, raising the laptop six inches off the table is good enough.
Apart from raising your laptop, you want the screen to be at a distance where you can easily read all the text with your head and body in an upright posture, while your back is supported on the chair. If the screen is too far away, your posture suffers because you lean forward to compensate for the distance and your eyes strain to read the small text. If the screen is too close, your eyes have to work harder to focus on the screen and it can cause headaches.
A simple trick to know the right distance is to position the screen one arm length away from you – that way, you make sure you placed the screen at the right distance. You may need to move it a bit closer if your laptop has a small screen.
So, remember: the first thing that you need to do is raise the screen, and at a distance where your eyes do not get tired to look at it and utilize an external keyboard and mouse – with these improvements, your workspace will start to look like your ideal ergonomic office set up.
ALL IN ALL…
All in all, we agree that laptops are ideal to use on the go, and it makes sense for most people to buy a laptop rather than a desktop due to the flexibility it provides. But to spend any extended amount of time working from your laptop is bad for your productivity and even worse for your body, At a miminum, you need a laptop riser, a separate keyboard, and a mouse. But we really suggest getting a large external monitor to optimize your productivity and physical health.
We believe the methods we suggest in this article will allow you to reach your full potential and do your best work.
Designing your workspace with a human factors approach that suits your natural body movements avoids causing pain and long-term injury while giving you the productivity you need to be successful.