The recent pandemic has resulted in more people working from home. This means working in environments which haven’t been adapted for sitting at a laptop for eight hours or more each day.
Home office equipment and laptops are less ergonomic than those within an office. However, there are ways to improve your set-up and create a more ergonomic workspace, including adjusting your laptop and desk height, which can reduce the risk of RSI, awkward posture and other related problems.
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Read more about how to ensure your desk and laptop are positioned ergonomically.
The health problems that could arise from not considering the ergonomic positioning of your laptop and desk.
How to ensure an ergonomic workspace at home and on a budget.
Expert advice on ergonomic improvements to your workspace.
Ensuring your laptop or iPad is ergonomic can be as simple as using a stand to adjust it to the right height for you. This will increase comfort and reduce possible health risks during prolonged use when working from home.
Your laptop screen should be adjusted so you can see the screen easily without having to bend your neck. Having your laptop at the right height will help you to be efficient in your work as your neck and wrist will be positioned at the right height. There should be no need to crane your neck, curve your back or have your wrist supporting you as you lean on it if you position your laptop computer at the correct angle.
In addition to ensuring your laptop is at the right height, proper desk height will also play a huge role in ensuring you can sit and work at your laptop for prolonged periods.
The right desk height for you will depend on your height and body type. However, a simple way to tell whether your desk is adjusted properly is to place both of your hands on the desk and take a look at your elbow height. If your elbows sit at a 90-degree angle comfortably, the desk is positioned correctly.
You can read more about the features of ergonomic desks in our guide to ensuring your desk is ergonomic.
Working from home can instil a feeling of being informal in some people, particularly if you’re not accustomed to working this way.
It may seem obvious, but the following set-ups are bad for your posture are not considered to be an ergonomic workspace:
It can be easy to fall into the habit of doing these things, but over time, they can lead to problems such as:
You can read our full guide to working from a laptop at home here.
The correct height varies depending on the height of the user. However, a simple online search can result in several websites, which allow you to input your height for a more tailored estimate of the desk you require for the best results.
There are several factors that should confirm whether your desk is at the right height:
There are many methods you can use to help ergonomics at home on a budget. You can either buy a cheap footstool or use books as a temporary footrest.
Laptop stands can also be bought cheaply if you shop around online, saving you the hassle of trying to find something to match your exact needs in store. If you have a sturdy cardboard box roughly the right size for the height you need or a stack of books, this can be used as a temporary solution to place your laptop on. Wrist support mats and a separate keyboard and mouse can help, and can also be purchased at reasonable prices. These will help to keep your wrists and hands in the correct position when you’re working to avoid awkward typing positions.
If you’re going to be working from home more in the future, you might want to invest in products such as sit-stand desks to help you work more ergonomically over the long term.
If you can afford to, it is worth purchasing an adjustable monitor arm or adjustable laptop stand. and an external laptop keyboard. An adjustable desk can also be useful to ensure your laptop is the right height if this is something you can afford.
An ergonomic chair
Having an ergonomic office chair can help to improve posture when sitting at your desk and help you to sit comfortably for longer periods without experiencing back pain. If you’re unable to adjust your desk, an ergonomic office chair can be adjusted so that your desk and laptop are at the correct height.
You can read about the importance of ergonomic sitting posture here.
If numerous people in your house are working from home, it can be hard to find space to work in a comfortable environment. Many of us are currently working from less than ideal set-ups, such as a kitchen or dining table. Our chairs are likely to be uncomfortable or at the wrong height for long-term working. Kitchen chairs are normally much lower than our office chairs, and we can’t adjust their height.
There are ways to make your set-up more ergonomic without spending any money. If you find yourself hunching over your laptop, make your own laptop stand by placing it on a pile of books or something equally stable. Kitchen or dining chairs can also sometimes be much lower than a normal office chair. If you feel yourself straining your wrists and reaching up to your laptop, sit on a pillow, so you are able to keep your arms and wrists in a neutral position. This means your wrists aren’t bent downwards or straining upwards to reach your keyboard.
To ensure your legs are supported, use a bean bag if your legs are dangling or struggling to touch the floor.
Are bigger laptops more ergonomic?
Yes. As smaller screens can be harder to see, a bigger laptop means you will be less likely to crane your neck as you attempt to read smaller words.
Plugging in an external mouse, external keyboard and speakers can give your laptop more of a desktop computer feel.
Yes. Not only can it reduce neck pain and discomfort, but a laptop stand also helps to prevent your laptop from overheating, which can happen when in use all day.
While some can be expensive, others can be relatively cheap, starting at under £10.
You should sit with your feet firmly on the ground or footrest, looking ahead at the screen and with you back straight.
Is using a laptop bad for your neck?
Without the use of other products such as a stand, ergonomic desk or chair, a laptop can be bad for your neck.
It can be difficult adjusting it to the right height without these support products.
While it’s not ideal to use your laptop while sitting in bed, the best way to support your back is to sit against the wall or headboard and have a support cushion for your lower back and another under your knees.
In addition to the products already mentioned, it’s important to take regular breaks and occasionally move your head/neck. When working for long periods, it’s easy to forget, and you may find yourself staring ahead at the screen with little or no neck movement.
By using wrist support mouse and keyboard mats and ensuring you follow the correct wrist posture by not having your wrist flexing downwards.
Much of the guidance suggests having a fifteen break every two hours. However, if you start to get uncomfortable or feel any twinges before that, standing and taking a couple of minutes to move around, moving your head slowly and releasing any strain in your muscles, can only be a positive thing.
Yes. However, when taking a break from typing, don’t rest them on the support mat.
This can be anywhere between 20 and 40 inches and depends on several factors such as the text size, desk space available and your eyesight.
Neither is ideal. It’s better to have your laptop, chair and desk set-up in a way which allows you to look straight ahead at the screen.
For more tips on the ergonomics to consider at home, read our worker’s guide to office ergonomics.